In the center of our Milky Way galaxy, 26,000 light years from Earth, lives a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*. Its mass, equivalent to about four million Suns, is stuffed entirely behind an event horizon stretching across eight million miles, smaller than the distance between Mercury and the Sun. Needless to say, it is a pretty weird place, so it should be no surprise that it exhibits weird behavior.
Still, chewing up stars and spitting out their remains in the form of planet-sized gas balls traveling at insane speeds? That’s kooky even for you, Sagittarius A*. But new research presented this week at the 2017 American Astronomical Society meeting demonstrates that the Milky Way’s black hole may genuinely play this game of “cosmic spitball,” as researchers described it.