Have the laws of na­ture gone down the rab­bit hole? Black holes are lurk­ing at the cen­ter of most gal­ax­ies… and they’re al­ways hun­gry.

They are the most pow­er­ful hunters in the uni­verse. For bil­lions of years they have been lurk­ing in the black­ness of space. They con­found our un­der­stand­ing of the laws of na­ture. And no mat­ter if it’s an as­ter­oid, a planet, or a whole sun— any­thing that g

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When­ever a star sud­denly seems to be in a great hurry, there can be one of two ex­pla­na­tions: Ei­ther it has come too close to the explosion of a neigh­bor­ing sun and was vi­o­lently pushed away—barnard’s star reached a record speed of more than 300,000 miles per hour as a re­sult of such an event—or it came too close to the great­est preda­tor in the whole uni­verse: a black hole that’s been ly­ing hid­den in the vast dark­ness of the gal­axy for bil­lions of years, a greedy fiend that mer­ci­lessly de­vours any­thing that comes too close to it. For such a star there is no es­cape: Prox­im­ity to the rav­en­ous mass mon­ster re­sults in the dra­matic end of the star’s ill-fated ex­is­tence— even as it races along at more than 870,000 miles per hour… But from where do the sin­is­ter star eaters draw such in­tense power to tear even en­tire so­lar sys­tems to pieces?

STAR HUNTERS

The fright­en­ing fact is: Black holes are true se­rial killers. In essence, black holes are al­ways swal­low­ing some­thing. Take, for in­stance, the black hole that’s sit­ting at the cen­ter of our own Milky Way gal­axy: Sagittarius A* is su­per­mas­sive, weigh­ing 4.3 mil­lion times the mass of our Sun. And it has a tremen­dous ap­petite, reg­u­larly in­dulging in its fa­vorite meal of a star with plan­ets, as­ter­oids, and gas clouds for its dessert. Sagittarius A* is ap­prox­i­mately 11.4 bil­lion years old, so this in­sa­tiable hunter has prob­a­bly eaten hun­dreds of thou­sands of stars through­out its life­time.

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