Strange celestial structures that look like dust clouds but act like stars may have been created by the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, according to unpublished research set to be presented at the American Astronomical Society.
Scientists have spent a lot of time studying the odd bodies — known as G-objects — in order to figure out how they operate. In the recent analysis, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles discovered three additions to the class and may have shed light on how the odd objects first formed.
Scientists first noticed two of the objects in 2004 and 2012. Further study revealed the bodies, which produce red light and appear to be quite cool, are likely surrounded by dust.
However, the first two G-objects have wandered near the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole without being torn apart. As a result, they have to be denser than a dust cloud. That property is why scientists believe they are actually stars surrounded by gas.
“They’re weird because they are not gas nebulae, they’re not stars, so we think they’re something in the middle, a stellar object surrounded by gas and dust,” study author Anna Ciurlo, an astronomer at the University of California Los Angeles, told Newsweek, “like a star that’s been puffed up.”
As the objects sit so close to the black hole, astronomers also believe that is where they came from. Previous research suggests black holes can encourage closely-paired stars to collide more quickly than they would normally. It is possible such collisions create G-objects.
If that turns out to be true, G-objects may be more common than previously believed. In addition, it would explain why there are so many young stars at the Milky Way’s galactic center.
The team collected the new information by analyzing 12 years’ worth of observations of the center of the Milky Way. Though scientists have spent a lot of time analyzing the region, the new study looked at the data to answer entirely new questions.
The findings are a step to better understanding the region, but there is still a long way to go. Scientists hope to continue their analysis of G-objects to better determine how they work and what their existence means for the center of our galaxy.
“Understanding G-objects can teach us a lot about the Galactic Center’s fascinating and still mysterious environment,” added Ciurlo according to Universe Today. “There are so many things going on that every localized process can help explain how this extreme, exotic environment works.”