Mystery of X7- Scientists have finally figured out the identity of an elongated object known as X7, near a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. For two decades, scientists had speculated what this object might be; however, recent research suggests X7 might actually be a cloud of gas and dust created from colliding two stars. With time, X7’s shape has changed as it’s being pulled apart by gravity from Sagittarius A* or Sgr A* at its center
These findings indicate X7 was formed when two stars collided, and one possible explanation is that its gas and dust were ejected during their merger. This process is common when stars are near black holes. To monitor X7’s dramatic changes as gravity from the black hole pulls it apart, researchers used Keck Observatory to observe.
“It is truly fascinating to witness X7’s shape and dynamics evolve so dramatically over such a brief time period as the gravitational pull of the supermassive black hole at its center shapes it,” said Randy Campbell, co-author of the paper and science operations lead at Keck Observatory. “X7 has undergone profound changes since our last visit,”
This study sheds new light on the evolution of X7, which shares many characteristics with other dusty objects orbiting Sgr A* that appear as gas but behave like stars. However, X7’s shape and velocity have changed more drastically than G objects have, accelerating toward its black hole at speeds up to 700 miles per second.
The study of X7 is part of an overall effort to comprehend the behavior of Sagittarius A, a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy that has mass four million times that of the sun and surrounds itself in gas and dust. Over recent decades, astronomers have discovered numerous objects orbiting Sgr A that are unlike any other known objects in our galaxy.
G objects, also known as G stars, possess characteristics that suggest they may be made of gas but behave like stars. Some have highly eccentric orbits which bring them very close to the black hole where they experience intense gravitational forces. Astronomers have speculated that these strange objects might actually be stars stripped of their outer layers due to this gravitational pull.
X7 is similar to the G objects in that it’s a dusty object being pulled apart by the gravitational pull of the black hole. However, its shape and behavior are more extreme than those observed with G objects over 20 years. As X7’s trajectory has elongated and stretched, it now appears on an accelerated course towards close approach to the black hole over the next several decades.
The research team employed data from the Galactic Center Orbit Initiative, a project which has been tracking objects around Sgr A* for two decades. Utilizing this information, they constructed an accurate model of X7’s orbit and studied its behavior over time. Their findings suggest X7 was formed through collision between two stars and is being torn apart by gravity from within Sgr A*.
Study of X7 and the G objects is important because it provides insight into how black holes influence nearby objects, as well as providing clues about star formation and evolution. The research team plans to continue monitoring X7 and other nearby objects around Sgr A* in order to gain more knowledge about their natures and environments surrounding this supermassive black hole.
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