This artist's depiction, provided by NASA, demonstrates what scientists believe is happening very close to the Sagittarius A* black hole in the Milky Way. The supermassive black hole is surrounded by a disk of gas (yellow and red). Massive stars, shown in blue, have formed in this disk, while small disks represent where stars are still forming. Results from the Chandra X-ray Observatory show that stars have formed locally in this disk, rather than being deposited there by a star cluster. The mysterious black hole has helped give birth to a new generation of stars, new observations suggest. (NASA, CXC, M. Weiss / AP)
Astronomers peering through NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory announced Thursday that they believe the black hole at the center of the Milky Way helped create new stars, not just destroy them.
This Jekyll-and-Hyde nature suggested by the new finding may help scientists understand the physics of black holes, said Sterl Phinney, a professor of theoretical astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who was not part of the study.
"Massive black holes are usually known for violence and destruction," said Sergei Nayakshin of the University of Leicester in England, who made the discovery. "So it's remarkable that this black hole helped create new stars, not just destroy them."
Researchers have debated why large stars can orbit so close to massive black holes. Black holes are believed to be the invisible remains of collapsed stars. Their gravitational pull is so powerful not even light can escape.
The latest discovery suggests the thick discs of gas orbiting black holes counteracts their huge gravitational pull, protecting stars as they form.
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