It’s taken years, but UCLA astronomers now have an answer for a bizarre object in the center of our galaxy.
The object, more commonly known as G2, was believed to be a hydrogen gas cloud as it headed towards our galaxy’s massive black hole.
Andrea Ghez, professor of physics and astronomy at UCLA, led a team to figure out the mystery behind G2. The team was shocked when the gas cloud was not consumed by the black hole during its closest approach.
“G2 survived and continues happily on its orbit; a gas cloud would not do that,” Ghez said in a news release.
“G2 was basically unaffected by the black hole. There were no fireworks.”
So, what is it? Ghez’s team believes it was formerly a pair of binary stars that were smashed together by the gravitational forces of the black hole to create one extremely large star.
What happens to G2 now? It’ll keep getting bigger for about a million years before calming down.
Ghez points out that this could be a more common occurrence than previously thought. “It’s possible that many of the stars we’ve been watching and not understanding may be the end product of mergers that are calm now,” said Ghez.
Ghez and her colleagues headed to Hawaii to make the discovery. Man, sign me up for that science trip.
Hawaii’s W.M. Keck Observatory has the world’s two largest optical and infrared telescopes.
The Keck Observatory lets astronomers like Ghez and her colleagues “understand the physics of black holes in a way that has never been possible.”