The NY Times reports:
Astronomers in Australia now say they have found the hungriest heart in all the cosmos. It is a black hole 20 billion times the mass of the sun eating the equivalent of a star every two days.Based on this, I'd say that it is fair to call a black hole a cosmic vacuum cleaner. No space traveler would want to get anywhere near such a thing.
The black hole is growing so rapidly, said Christian Wolf, of the Australian National University, who led the team that found it in the depths of time, “that it is probably 10,000 times brighter than the galaxy it lives in.” So bright, that it is dazzling our view and we can’t see the galaxy itself. ...
Black holes are a one-way gate to gravitational oblivion, according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, but they can only swallow so much, depending on their size; the rest of the matter and energy gets splashed out across space, producing the fireworks popularly known as quasars.
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The blaze from material swirling around this newly observed drainpipe into eternity — known officially as SMSS J215728.21-360215.1 — is as luminous as 700 trillion suns, according to Dr. Wolf and his collaborators. If it were at the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, it would be 10 times brighter than the moon and bathe the Earth in so many X-rays that life would be impossible.
This is also one of the brightest objects in the universe. Not so black, I guess.
NY Times also reports:
It happens every 405,000 years. The Earth’s orbit gradually changes shape from almost circular to slightly elliptical over a period of 202,500 years, and then starts returning to form over the next 202,500 years — like a metronome swinging side to side.Is this settled science? It seems like it could have far-reaching consequences. Maybe life on Earth was only possible because Earth is stabilized by the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter.
Right now, we are in an almost perfectly circular orbit around the sun, and soon — within some thousands of years, that is — we will start moving toward the elliptical.
This happens because of the Earth’s gravitational interactions with other planets, especially Jupiter and Venus — Jupiter because it is very large, and Venus because it is very near.