Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Stars Form Surprisingly Close to Milky Way’s Black Hole

17.10.2005


Chandra’s image of the Galactic Center (left) has provided evidence for a new and unexpected way for stars to form. A combination of infrared and X-ray observations indicates that a surplus of massive stars has formed from a large disk of gas around Sagittarius A*, the Milky Way’s central black hole (illustration on right). Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/F.K.Baganoff et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss


The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way has surprisingly helped spawn a new generation of stars, according to observations from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This novel mode of star formation may solve several mysteries about the supermassive black holes that reside at the centers of nearly all galaxies.

"Massive black holes are usually known for violence and destruction," said Sergei Nayakshin of the University of Leicester, United Kingdom, and coauthor of a paper on this research in an upcoming issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. "So it’s remarkable that this black hole helped create new stars, not just destroy them."

Black holes have earned their fearsome reputation because any material -- including stars -- that falls within the so-called event horizon is never seen again. However, these new results indicate that the immense disks of gas known to orbit many black holes at a "safe" distance from the event horizon can help nurture the formation of new stars.



This conclusion came from new clues that could only be revealed in X-rays. Until the latest Chandra results, astronomers have disagreed about the origin of a mysterious group of massive stars discovered by infrared astronomers to be orbiting less than a light year from the Milky Way’s central black hole, a.k.a. Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A*. At such close distances to Sgr A*, the standard model for star formation predicts that gas clouds from which stars form should have been ripped apart by tidal forces from the black hole.

Two models to explain this puzzle have been proposed. In the disk model, the gravity of a dense disk of gas around Sgr A* offsets the tidal forces and allows stars to form; in the migration model, the stars formed in a star cluster far away from the black hole and migrated in to form the ring of massive stars. The migration scenario predicts about a million low mass, sun-like stars in and around the ring, whereas in the disk model, the number of low mass stars could be much less.

Nayakshin and his coauthor, Rashid Sunyaev of the Max Plank Institute for Physics in Garching, Germany, used Chandra observations to compare the X-ray glow from the region around Sgr A* to the X-ray emission from thousands of young stars in the Orion Nebula star cluster. They found that the Sgr A* star cluster contains only about 10,000 low mass stars, thereby ruling out the migration model.

"We can now say that the stars around Sgr A* were not deposited there by some passing star cluster, rather they were born there," said Sunyaev . "There have been theories that this was possible, but this is the first real evidence. Many scientists are going to be very surprised by these results."

Because the Galactic Center is shrouded in dust and gas, it has not been possible to look for the low-mass stars in optical observations. In contrast, X-ray data have allowed astronomers to penetrate the veil of gas and dust and look for these low mass stars.

"In one of the most inhospitable places in our Galaxy, stars have prevailed," said Nayakshin. "It appears that star formation is much more tenacious than we previously believed."

The results suggest that the "rules" of star formation change when stars form in the disk of a giant black hole. Because this environment is very different from typical star formation regions, there is a change in the proportion of stars that form. For example, there is a much higher percentage of massive stars in the disks around black holes.

And, when these massive stars explode as supernovae, they will "fertilize" the region with heavy elements such as oxygen. This may explain the large amounts of such elements observed in the disks of young supermassive black holes.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Megan Watzke | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://chandra.harvard.edu
http://chandra.nasa.gov

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

IceCube experiment finds Earth can block high-energy particles from nuclear reactions

24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure

24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heidelberg Researchers Study Unique Underwater Stalactites

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>