At the centre of the galaxy sits Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole around four million times the mass of the Sun. If an unlucky star ventures too close, the black hole’s gravity tears it to shreds.
Sagittarius A* (Image: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Wisconsin/Y.Bai, et al.)
But rather than leaving the gassy star corpse to die, Sagittarius A* might ball up the entrails into masses bigger than planet Neptune, and fart 95 per cent of them out of the galaxy at 32 million km/h, according to research presented at this year’s meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
Eden Girma, Harvard undergrad and member of the Banneker/Aztlan Institute, wondered what would happen to stars that wandered too close to Sagittarius A*, according to a press release, and made detailed calculations and simulations to come to her conclusion. (Oh, and on top of being a undergraduate number-crunching paper-producing superstar, Girma happens to be a fantastic singer, too.)
Artist conception of the planet-sized balls (Image:Mark A. Garlick/CfA)
But anyway, scientists didn’t know about the gas clumping. “While tidal disruptions in the galactic center have been a subject of research since the late ’80s, the idea that actual compact objects could form from this process is very new,” Girma told National Geographic.
So, will we find one of these speedy orbs? A few of the balls stick around the Milky Way — the closest might even be a few hundred light years away, according to the release. But they’d be difficult to find, and even if we spotted one, its origin wouldn’t be clear to us.
Until then, every time you look up at the night sky, you can say to yourself, “Wow, there could be giant farts out there we don’t even know about.”