In "Gravity’s Engines," Scharf hits the bull’s eye in his analysis of the latest ponderings on black holes, the arcane understanding of which has risen to public awareness largely through Hollywood science fiction films and most notably franchises like "Star Trek."
Repeating the observations of Galileo, Scharf notes that Earth, of course, is not at the center of the universe; it’s not even at the center of our galaxy. What does reside in the heart of the Milky Way, unbeknownst to scientists until only recently, is a “supermassive black hole” – a “dark star” that, like a worrisome whirlpool, sucks in the matter around it and yet, at the same time, throws off profound amounts of energy.
Astrophysicists estimate that it may be four million times the mass of our own sun and joins uncountable numbers of other black holes set in the dark maws of space.
The projection of radiation and elemental particles from the lips of black holes, called “event horizons,” seems to have affected not only the way that galaxies are constructed but where individual stars, among billions and billions, settle into place, Scharf notes. More minutely, but of great relevance to us, it also appears that black holes affect how gravity holds planets and moons in delicate orbits.