Astronomers Reveal Flares and Baby Stars Around Milky Way’s Core

Astronomers Reveal Flares and Baby Stars Around Milky Way’s Core

Recent astronomical research has uncovered new behaviors and characteristics of objects surrounding Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. A team comprising researchers from the University of Cologne, Masaryk University, Charles University, the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy identified young stellar objects (YSOs), also known as S stars, which exhibit orbits and patterns similar to known young evolved stars around Sgr A*. These objects are significantly younger than previously identified high-speed stars, suggesting new dynamics in the black hole's vicinity.

In a separate study, astronomers from Penn State University have mapped the growth of supermassive black holes over a 12-billion-year period using X-ray observations and supercomputer models. Led by Fan Zou and W. Niel Brandt, their research indicates that the primary mechanism for black hole growth has been the accretion of cold gas from host galaxies, with galaxy collisions also contributing. The findings reveal that Sgr A* accumulated most of its matter relatively late in cosmic history, mainly through accretion processes.

Meanwhile, researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) have identified nine previously undetected X-ray flares from Sgr A* using a decade of data from NASA's NuSTAR telescope. These high-energy bursts illuminate the area around the black hole, providing insights into its immediate environment. Grace Sanger-Johnson, a postbaccalaureate researcher, and Jack Uteg, an undergraduate researcher, also analyzed X-ray reflections from a nearby molecular cloud known as "the Bridge," shedding light on Sgr A*'s activity over the past centuries. This research helps reconstruct a timeline of the black hole’s behavior, revealing a more active past approximately 200 years ago.

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