- Black holes, such as the four-million-solar-mass lurker at the center of our galaxy, are not simply consumers. They also radiate copious amounts of energy as they devour nearby matter.
- A black hole's feeding habits can have a surprising influence on the galaxy. Too much black hole activity, or too little, and stars with the right conditions for life as we know it could be scarce.
- The Milky Way occupies a galactic sweet spot, with a black hole that appears to act out just often enough to stir things up and keep the galaxy's stellar population at a perfect simmer.
- The connection between black holes and life is complex, but our galaxy's central black hole seems to have made numerous contributions to our ability to exist at this place and time.
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Adapted from Gravity’s Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos, by Caleb Scharf, by arrangement with Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC (US), Penguin Press (UK), Hayakawa Shobo (Japan) and Prószy´nski (Poland). Copyright © 2012 by Caleb Scharf.
Our existence in this place, this microscopic corner of the cosmos, is fleeting. with utter disregard for our wants and needs, nature plays out its grand acts on scales of space and time that are truly hard to grasp. Perhaps all that we can look to for real solace is our endless capacity to ask questions and seek answers about the place we find ourselves in. One of the questions we are now asking is how deeply our specific circumstances are connected to this majestic universal scheme of stars, galaxies and black holes.