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Conditions right for stars, planets near Milky Way’s supermassive black hole

Blobs of gas near galaxy’s center appear ripe for nurturing new stellar systems

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7:00am, January 30, 2017
clouds of gas

SIZED JUST RIGHT  Clouds of gas (white box), observed with ALMA, appear to have the right mass to be young stars, even though they aren’t far from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way (green dot).

Blobs of gas near the Milky Way’s center may be just the right mass to harbor young stars and possibly planets, too. Any such budding stellar systems would face an uphill battle, developing only about two light-years from the galaxy’s central supermassive black hole with its intense gravity and ultraviolet radiation. But it’s not impossible for the small stars to survive in the hostile place, a new study suggests.

“Nature is very clever. It finds ways to work in extreme environments,” says Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Four blobs of gas near the galactic center have the right amount of mass to be planetary systems with small, young stars, Yusef-Zadeh and colleagues report online January 20 at arXiv.org. The paper is also slated for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“It is fairly likely that

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