Star Birth on the Edge of a Black Hole

By Eliza Strickland | August 22, 2008 6:34 pm

black hole star formationAstronomers say they’ve demonstrated how stars can form on the treacherous edge of a supermassive black hole. When a cloud of gas swirls towards a black hole, they say, a combination of complex forces push some parts of the cloud into a disk that orbits the black hole at a safe distance, allowing stars to be born in the gas.

The researchers developed a simulation that demonstrates how clouds of gas can be captured by massive black holes to form eccentric disks, which then fragment to become a necklace of massive stars…. Their findings are in accordance with actual observations in our Milky Way galaxy that indicate the presence of a massive black hole, surrounded by an elliptical necklace of massive stars [Telegraph].

The edge of a supermassive black hole doesn’t sound like a promising environment for a star nursery; black holes, which are usually the remains of collapsed stars, are so dense that their gravity drags in anything that crosses the “event horizon.” Says astronomer Ian Bonnell: “The high tidal shear from the black hole should tear apart the molecular clouds that form stars” [National Geographic]. In the simulation, much of the gas cloud is torn apart, but shock waves and other turbulence sucks some of the gas into a spiral, causing it to take up orbit around the black hole and giving time for stars to form [Scientific American].

While researchers say that the simulation produced a plausible scenario, there’s only indirect evidence that this star formation process is indeed playing out around black holes throughout the universe. The simulation, published in the journal Science [subscription required], showed that the stars that formed were very massive. This result reflects what astronomers see close to the galactic centre, where there seem to be very few lightweight stars [New Scientist].

DISCOVER recently published breathtaking images of the turbulent gases involved in star formation with its photo gallery, “Turbulence: How to Visualize the Invisible.”

Image: Science/AAAS

MORE ABOUT: look at this
  • Ratheeskumar

    I’ve got a doubt,is there the black hole near our universe or earth? if be will we have any effect by that?

  • chilton

    the black hole is in the center of our galaxy, the neighboring stars that we see are all part of our galaxy the milky way, our solar system which rests near the outer edge of the galaxy is less likely to be affected by the black hole, BUT MY question is…. if our solar systems age was determined by the distance from the center of our galaxy then how did it come to be so much older than the inner formations of stars, if it was indeed created by the existence of our black hole? my own reasoning would lead me to belive that the speed of our solar system orbiting (or spiraling inward) the black hole in the galaxy would make us a younger system of planets, because of the direct relation to speed and time I would think that our greater speed would slow down time. or am I on drugs for thinking that time changes over the plane of our own galaxy???

  • Rathees

    Hi Chilton, I think…. that the stars of our milky way always birth from the black hole and going away apart from that . So a day our solar system also can go apart away far distance from our mother black hole. It may be make to us (our solar system) to meet an another black hole in that place. it is possible because there are so many black holes in the wide space. I think that It’ll very dangers to us at anytime.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar