Giant Milky Way Black Hole Vaporizes Planets and Asteroids

Scientists believe a giant black hole in the center of the galaxy has been eating asteroids and planets.

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A black hole in the Milky Way is gobbling up asteroids, and may have vaporized some planets, according to new data gleaned from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory satellite.

Sagittarius A*, the giant black hole vaporizing the asteroids, could be responsible for mysterious X-ray flares the satellite has detected since it was launched in 1999. Kastytis Zubovas, lead author of the report, said in a statement that a "huge number of [asteroids] are needed to produce these flares." In fact, the researchers believe there may be trillions of asteroids and comets in a cloud near the black hole.

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Zubovas said that planets pushed too close to the black hole would cause "a sudden end to the planet's life, a much more dramatic fate than the planets in our solar system ever will experience." Scientists think a planet was eaten by the black hole as recently as a hundred years ago. Sagittarius A* is believed to be the middle of the Milky Way, about 27,000 light years from earth. Researchers said that new data available later in the year will shed new light about how asteroids and planets form near the black hole.

jkoebler@usnews.com

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