Sagittarius A* in 60 Seconds
Narrator (April Hobart, CXC): Scientists have long known that the giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way is a particularly poor eater. Unlike some of its more distant galactic cousins including quasars, the Milky Way's black hole doesn't seem to be consuming much material, and, as a result, it is remarkably dim in X-ray light by comparison. To find out why our black hole behaves as it does, scientists used Chandra to observe the black hole - known as Sagittarius A* -- for over five weeks worth of time. This is one of the largest amounts of time that Chandra has ever looked at the same object. Sagittarius A* is a black hole with about 4 million times the mass of the Sun. At just 26,000 light years from Earth, Sagittarius A* is one of very few black holes in the universe that's close enough where we can actually witness the flow of matter nearby. The researchers found out that Sagittarius A* actually consumes less than about 1% of the material it has available to it. While they are still working out the details of how and why the black hole is so finicky, astronomers now have a new piece of the puzzle thanks to these new X-ray data from Chandra.