Astronomers on Maunakea Discover New Objects in Galaxy

January 15, 2020, 9:47 AM HST (Updated January 15, 2020, 9:47 AM)

Astronomers from UCLA and W. M. Keck Observatory discovered four more bizarre objects near the Milky Way galaxy’s supermassive black hole.

The UCLA Galactic Center Group discovered this new class of objects orbiting the black hole through the Keck Observatory on Maunakea. They have been categorized as the G objects.

“These objects look like gas but behave like stars,” said co-author Andrea Ghez, UCLA’s Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics and director of the UCLA Galactic Center Group.


Astronomers say G objects are likely stars that are hidden in a thick envelope of gas and dust. They may have formed as the result of the merger of a pair of stars.

Researchers released a study as part of UCLA’s Galactic Center Orbits Initiative, consisting of 13 years of data taken from Keck Observatory. The results published online today in the journal Nature.

The G objects look compact most of the time and stretch out when their orbits bring them closest to the black hole. Their orbits range from about 100 to 1,000 years, said lead author Anna Ciurlo, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher.

This animation above is a visualization of the orbital motion of G objects and stars in the Galactic Center. The G objects are shown in magenta, young stars in green and old stars in orange.





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