Exploring the Mysterious X7: Is It the Result of Two Colliding Stars?
A mysterious object that has been slowly drifting towards the center of the Milky Way's supermassive black hole could be the exploded remnants of two colliding stars, a new study suggests. X7, a peculiar entity, has a mass of around 50 times that of the Earth and is travelling at velocities of up to 700 mph (1,125 km/h) as it descends into the core black hole of our galaxy, being tugged and distorted by intense tidal forces as it plummets.
Anna Ciurlo, a UCLA assistant researcher and the paper’s lead author, said: “No other object in this region has shown such an extreme evolution. It started off comet-shaped and people thought maybe it got that shape from stellar winds or jets of particles from the black hole. But as we followed it for 20 years, we saw it becoming more elongated. Something must have put this cloud on its particular path with its particular orientation.”
The scientists suggested that a collision between two stars in the recent past caused a cloud of flaming plasma to be released, which then transformed into the large blob we see today. X7 has characteristics in common with other enigmatic bodies orbiting the core of the Galaxy, labeled as G objects. Approximately two decades ago, an unexpected phenomenon was discovered, which caused confusion: it had the appearance of a gaseous cloud, yet acted like a star, expanding at its closest approach to the star it was orbiting, yet maintaining its structure and shrinking back to a more condensed size to complete its orbit.
The Astrophysical Journal published the research. The paper suggested that there may be thousands of large, mysterious black holes hidden in the clouds of the early universe. The discovery of COS-87259 and its black hole has been an unexpected one, prompting questions about the prevalence of supermassive black holes in the early universe, and the types of galaxies they tend to inhabit.
The researchers note that X7's orbit is very similar to that of the G object G3, and propose that G3 could be the parent object. When the gravitational pull of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way influences this object, he said: “It’s thrilling to see dramatic changes in X7’s structure and behaviour in such fine detail over a relatively short timescale”.
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