A Mysterious Object Is Being Pulled Into the Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy

For years, astronomers have watched a mysterious alien named X7 orbit the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, wondering where it came from.

By analyzing 20 years worth of observations, a team of scientists led by University of California Los Angeles astronomer Anna Ciurlo discovered a remarkable change in the shape of X7, which is almost twice its initial size.

The change in this pattern suggests that the alien is likely made of debris ejected during a recent collision between the two stars.

“Nothing in this area shows such extreme evolution,” Ciurlo said.

“It started as a comet and people thought it might have gotten that shape from interstellar winds or jets from the black hole. But as we followed it for 20 years, we saw it get taller. a special way with a special face.”

If cloud debris is what’s really going on, his findings shed light on some interesting things in the galactic center, such as the number of interstellar collisions, and the effects of extreme gravity. In a few years, the cloud of dust and gas will become increasingly spaghettified, and fall into the black star Sagittarius A* (SgrA*.).

By studying X7 over the years, researchers were able to calculate its mass, which is about 50 times that of Earth. That might be a lot for an Earth dweller, but in space it’s almost a sneeze, not even a sixth of Jupiter’s size.

Changes in the shape of the debris cloud and its speed also show that it is in orbit around the galactic center, it has a duration of about 170 years. Or there, it will be, if it is a bit more together. Simulations suggest that she will not be able to complete one orbit.

The closest approach to Sgr A*, known as periastron, is predicted to occur in 2036. At this time, the gravitational field will tear apart the cloud, leaving the remnants to continue orbiting the black hole until they disappear. with no more time than the nature of the event. When this finally happens, anyone who happens to be watching can see the fireworks.

“It’s exciting to see the dramatic changes in X7’s shape and energy in detail on short time scales as the gravitational pull of the supermassive crater at the center of the Milky Way is influencing this object,” the astronomer said. The universe is also written by Randy. Campbell of Keck Observatory.

X7 shares some similarities with other mysterious objects in the universe, known as G objects. These were first discovered about 20 years ago, and they offer a remarkable game: they look like clouds of gas, but they are like stars, stretching at periastron, but rising and falling into a pattern necessary to continue orbiting.

Astronomers hypothesize that G objects are stars that have merged together, forming a large cloud of material that sits in the gravitational field of the newly merged star, hiding it from view. Then a study published in 2021 found that one of these objects, G2, is a cloud of matter, which hides three stars; but it is still unknown who they are.

While there are similarities, the X7 is very different from the G series, too. Its evolution is more dramatic than that of G objects, in shape and speed as it extends rapidly to Sgr A*.

So the X7 may not be the same type of thing as the G things, but it’s probably related.

Evolution of X7 hot dust over time. (Curlo et al., ApJL2023)

“Another possibility is that X7’s gas and dust were ejected at the same time the two stars merged,” Ciurlo said. “In this process, the merged star is hidden in a shell of dust and gas, which may fit the description of G objects. And the gas may have created objects similar to X7.”

Because the X7 does not live with a population hidden in its core, it is expected to have a shorter life than the G components; this may be the reason why others like it have not been seen yet. Meanwhile, the merged star that X7 swelled up could be out there in the galactic center, on its own. The researchers note that its circuit is similar to that of G object G3, and they suggest that G3 may be the parent object.

However, at the moment it is not easy to eliminate some opportunities. X7 could be a piece of debris removed from a large cloud, for example. More observations can help reduce it.

And, of course, watching the X7 should be interesting and rewarding in itself, as it approaches destruction.

“Continued monitoring of X7 will allow us to witness these transformational changes,” the researchers wrote, “ending with the destruction of the remnants of this fascinating structure. “

The study was published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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