The Curious Behavior of the Milky Way's Central Black Hole

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Science  30 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6149, pp. 964-965
DOI: 10.1126/science.1243115

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Over the past two decades, astronomers have assembled an incontrovertible body of evidence supporting the claim that a supermassive black hole resides at the center of our Milky Way galaxy (1). Thanks to its relative proximity, this black hole, named Sgr A* (Sagittarius A-star), provides an ideal laboratory for testing many of our theories about general relativity and extreme gravity. Because black holes are indeed black, we must infer their properties by observing the light emitted by hot gas immediately surrounding them. On page 981 of this issue, Wang et al. (2) present x-ray observations of Sgr A* that allow us to do exactly that, and help constrain some of the leading theoretical models for the behavior of material accreting onto the giant black hole.