Black holes, such as the four-million-solar-mass lurker at the center of our galaxy, are not simply consumers. They also radiate copious amounts of energy as they devour nearby matter.
A black hole’s feeding habits can have a surprising influence on the galaxy. Too much black hole activity, or too little, and stars with the right conditions for life as we know it could be scarce.
The Milky Way occupies a galactic sweet spot, with a black hole that appears to act out just often enough to stir things up and keep the galaxy’s stellar population at a perfect simmer.
The connection between black holes and life is complex, but our galaxy’s central black hole seems to have made numerous contributions to our ability to exist at this place and time.