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Picture of the Day

Infant stars found near galaxy's supermassive black hole

At the center of our galaxy, in the immediate vicinity of its supermassive black hole, is a region wracked by powerful tidal forces and bathed in intense ultraviolet light and X-ray radiation. These harsh conditions, astronomers surmise, do not favor star formation, especially low-mass stars like our sun. Surprisingly, new observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) suggest otherwise. ALMA has revealed the telltale signs of 11 low-mass stars forming perilously close -- within three light-years -- to the Milky Way's supermassive black hole, known to astronomers as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*). At this distance, tidal forces driven by the supermassive black hole should be energetic enough to rip apart clouds of dust and gas before they can form stars. In this artist's conception of an infant solar system, the young star pulls material from its surroundings into a rotating disk.

Visit Website | Image credit: Bill Saxton/NRAO/AUI/NSF