Atypical objects revolve around a black hole in the center of the Milky Way

Astronomers from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have discovered a new class of very interesting objects orbiting a supermassive black hole in the very center of our galaxy. They published the results of their research in the renowned scientific journal Nature.

These objects resemble gas clouds, but behave like stars - says prof. Andrea Ghez, director of the UCLA Galactic Center Group.

These new objects remain compact for most of the time, but stretch when they approach the black hole in their orbit. According to Anna Ciurlo, a UCLA researcher, these objects orbit the black hole for 100 to 1000 years.

In 2005, a research group led by Ghez identified an unusual object in the center of our galaxy, later called G1. In 2012, astronomers from Germany, in turn, discovered the G2 object, which approached the supermassive black hole in 2014. Ghez and her team members believe that G2 is actually two stars that circled the black hole together and merged into one, an extremely large star surrounded by a surprisingly dense cloud of gas and dust.

When passing through the orbit point closest to the black hole, G2 looked very strange. We've seen it before, but it wasn't so interesting until he came close to the black hole and lengthened. Most of the surrounding gas has broken off. From an ordinary object it has changed into a stretched and distorted one, it has lost its outer envelope, and now, moving away from the black hole, it turns back into a compact object - says Ghez.

In all G scientists' objects, the most exciting thing is that the matter detached from their outer layers by tidal interactions during the passage near the black hole must eventually fall into the black hole. When this happens, we can expect fireworks, because the matter consumed by the black hole is warmed up and emits huge amounts of radiation before it hits the event horizon.

The question is whether G1 and G2 are just unusual exceptions or whether they belong to a separate class of space objects.

Researchers from the group led by Ghez report the discovery of further objects, which are called G3, G4, G5 and G6. The researchers determined the orbit of each of them and it turned out that although G1 and G2 have similar orbits, the four new objects have completely different.

Scientists suspect that all six objects are in fact binary systems (two stars orbit around a common center of mass) that have merged into one object under the influence of the strong gravity of the supermassive black hole. The process of joining two stars lasts over a million years.

Connecting stars in the universe may occur more often than we thought. Black holes can provoke the merging of binary systems into larger objects. It's possible that many of the stars we're thinking about are actually the end result of joining two smaller stars. Interactions of stars in binary systems with a black hole are significantly different from the interactions of individual stars with other individual stars and black holes - adds Ghez.

Ciurlo notes that although the gas from the outer shell of the G2 has dramatically expanded, the dust inside the gas has remained dense.

Something kept him compact and survived the approach to the black hole. This strongly indicates the presence of a star in the interior of G2.

The researchers made their observations at the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii, using the benefits of the so-called adaptive optics, which corrects the adverse effects of the atmosphere on observations in real time.

In recent months, researchers have identified further objects that could potentially also belong to the new class of objects described above. Analyzes of their behavior are ongoing.

Atypical objects revolve around a black hole in the center of the Milky Way


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