STRANGE objects have been spotted orbiting the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.
Astronomers aren't quite sure what they could be so they've used 13 years worth of data to identify them as a new class of object.
Andrea Ghez, co-author of a recent study about the mystery, said: "These objects look like gas and behave like stars."
The six objects are named G1 through to G6.
They appear to be interacting with the black hole known as Sagittarius A* and look like elongated blobs.
Some scientists have theorised that the blobs are gas clouds that each have a mass several times larger than Earth.
Another theory is that they are small stars covered in dust.
Either way, the objects are able to orbit the black hole's edge without getting pulled in and destroyed.
The objects appear compact but stretch out whenever their orbit takes them close to the black hole.
This close period can last from 170 to 1,600 years.
The first two G objects were discovered back in 2005 and 2012.
Because they were able to orbit the black hole without being ripped to shreds, the scientists knew they were looking at objects never seen before.
Ghez has stated that the objects can't just be gas clouds or they would have been dragged into the black hole.
Instead, they must have some sort of object within.
All the objects have different orbits and some are faster than others.
Co-author Mark Morris, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, said: "One of the things that has gotten everyone excited about the G objects is that the stuff that gets pulled off of them by tidal forces as they sweep by the central black hole must inevitably fall into the black hole.
"When that happens, it might be able to produce an impressive fireworks show since the material eaten by the black hole will heat up and emit copious radiation before it disappears across the event horizon."
The astronomers now think that each G object could be a pair of binary stars that revolved around each other.
They also think these stars could have merged thanks to the gravitational pull of the supermassive black hole.
Ultimately, the onjects could explain how galaxies and black holes evolve.
Ghez said: "It's possible that many of the stars we've been watching and not understanding may be the end product of mergers that are calm now.
"We are learning how galaxies and black holes evolve. The way binary stars interact with each other and with the black hole is very different from how single stars interact with other single stars and with the black hole."
The team now wants to do more analysis to see if they can discover even more unusual objects.
What is a black hole? The key facts
Here's what you need to know…
What is a black hole?
- A black hole is a region of space where absolutely nothing can escape
- That's because they have extremely strong gravitational effects, which means once something goes into a black hole, it can't come back out
- They get their name because even light can't escape once it's been sucked in – which is why a black hole is completely dark
What is an event horizon?
- There has to be a point at which you're so close to a black hole you can't escape
- Otherwise literally everything in the universe would have been sucked into one
- The point at which you can no longer escape from a black hole's gravitational pull is called the event horizon
- The event horizon varies between different black holes, depending on their mass and size
What is a singularity?
- The gravitational singularity is the very centre of a black hole
- It's a one-dimensional point that contains an incredibly large mass in an infinitely small space
- At the singularity, space-time curves infinitely and the gravitational pull is infinitely strong
- Conventional laws of physics stop applying at this point
How are black holes created?
- Most black holes are made when a supergiant star dies
- This happens when stars run out of fuel – like hydrogen – to burn, causing the star to collapse
- When this happens, gravity pulls the centre of the star inwards quickly, and collapses into a tiny ball
- It expands and contracts until one final collapse, causing part of the star to collapse inward thanks to gravity, and the rest of the star to explode outwards
- The remaining central ball is extremely dense, and if it's especially dense, you get a black hole
In other space news, scientists have discovered a new planet orbiting the closest star to our Solar System.
Nasa has announced it will soon stop "hitching rides with Russia" and instead run all-American manned rocket flights starting this year.
And, the space agency is eyeing up a nearby asteroid that contains enough gold to make everyone on Earth a billionaire.
What are your thoughts on the six mystery objects orbiting the black hole? Let us know in the comments..Source: Read Full Article