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Decade of the Monster

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Science  29 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6127, pp. 1514-1516
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6127.1514

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It could be the most photographed snack in the history of the galaxy. Either late this year or early next, the giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way, known as Sagittarius A*, will devour a blob of gas hurtling toward it at more than 2000 kilometers per second. A vast array of telescopes in space and on the ground is poised to record the feast, which could rouse the Milky Way's gravitational and reveal why the massive body appears to have been on a near-starvation diet for centuries. But before astronomers can attempt to answer these questions, they must nail down several basic properties about the parcel of gas known as G2: its origin, mass, and orbit.

  • * Ron Cowen is a freelance writer in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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