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for catching!— Sarafina Nance (@starstrickenSF) December 23, 2019
At the center of our galaxy lies a region where roughly 10 million stars are packed into just 1 parsec (3.25 light-years) of space. At the center of this lies the supermassive black hole (SMBH) known as Sagittarius A*, which has a mass of over 4 million Suns. For decades, astronomers have been trying to get a better look at this region in the hopes of understanding the incredible forces at work and how they have affected the evolution of our galaxy.
What they’ve found includes a series of stars that orbit very closely to Sagittarius A* (like S1 and S2), which have been used to test Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. And recently, a team from UCLA’s Galactic Center Orbits Initiative detected a series of compact objects that also orbit the SMBH. These objects look like clouds of gas but behave like stars, depending on how close they are in their orbits to Sagittarius A*.
Study - Findings - Nature - Dr - Anna
The study that describes their findings, which recently appeared in the journal Nature, was led by Dr. Anna Ciurlo of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). As they indicate in their study, these objects orbit our galaxy’s SMBH with a period of between 100 to 1,000 years. These objects look compact most of the time but stretch out when they are at the closest point in their orbits to the black hole.
Their work builds on about fifteen years of observations that have identified more and more of these objects near the center of our galaxy. The first object (later named G1) was discovered in 2005 by a team led by Andrea Ghez, the Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics the director of the UCLA Galactic Center Group and a co-author on this study.
Prof - Ghez
This was followed in 2012 when Prof. Ghez and...
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