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Bizarre spiral object found swirling around Milky Way's center - Space.com

Bizarre spiral object found swirling around Milky Way's center - Space.com

Bizarre spiral object found swirling around Milky Way's center - Space.com
Jun 23, 2022 1 min, 21 secs

As if cracking open a cosmic Russian nesting doll, astronomers have peered into the center of the Milky Way and discovered what appears to be a miniature spiral galaxy, swirling daintily around a single large star.

The star — located about 26,000 light-years from Earth near the dense and dusty galactic center — is about 32 times as massive as the sun and sits within an enormous disk of swirling gas, known as a "protostellar disk." (The disk itself measures about 4,000 astronomical units wide — or 4,000 times the distance between Earth and the sun).

But astronomers have never seen one like this before: a galaxy in miniature, orbiting perilously close to the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Related: Spectacular Hubble image captures 'grand spiral' galaxy.

To check this hypothesis, the team calculated a dozen potential orbits for the mysterious object, then ran a simulation to see if any of those orbits could have brought the object close enough to the protostellar disk to whip it into a spiral.

—Spectacular Hubble image captures 'grand spiral' galaxy.

— See a behemoth black hole and spiral galaxy like only the Hubble telescope can.

Besides offering the first direct images of a protostellar disk in the galactic center, this study shows that external objects can whip stellar disks into spiral shapes typically only seen on the galactic scale. .

And because the center of the Milky Way is millions of times denser with stars than our neck of the galaxy, it's likely that near-miss events like this occur in the galactic center pretty regularly, the researchers said!


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