Stars seen forming close to black hole

April 5, 2013 at 6:51 PM   |   Comments

EVANSTON, Ill., April 5 (UPI) -- Astronomers using a telescope in Chile say they've seen signs of star formation close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Researchers at Northwestern University say if the discovery is confirmed it would be the first time star formation has been observed so close to the galactic center.

The gravitation behemoth that is the monstrous black hole living at the galaxy center creates a turbulent region of space thought to be wracked by such extreme tidal forces any star-forming clouds of dust and gas would be stretched thin and shredded long before infant stars could emerge, they said.

"People think it is very hard to form stars near a supermassive black hole," study lead author Farhad Zadeh, said. "But what we seem to have found are patches of dust and gas that have become so dense that they are able to overcome their inhospitable surroundings."

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile detected telltale jets of material bursting out of dense cocoons of gas and dust.

Such jets normally indicate the formation of a young star, they said.

"What we see in these images from ALMA are outflows that appear very much like what we see in star-forming regions elsewhere in galaxy," Zadeh said.

The molecular clouds may have become so massive and dense, possibly by merging, that they cross a threshold that allows internal gravity to take over, starting a chain of events that inexorably leads to the birth of a new star, he said.

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