Stellar fountain of youth with turbulent formation history in the center of our galaxy | Science & Technology

An unexpectedly high number of young stars has been identified in the direct vicinity of a supermassive black hole and water ice has been detected at the center of our galaxy.

An international team led by Dr Florian Peißker at the University of Cologne’s Institute of Astrophysics has analysed in detail a young star cluster in the immediate vicinity of the super massive black hole Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) in the centre of our galaxy and showed that it is significantly younger than expected. This cluster, known as IRS13, was discovered more than twenty years ago, but only now has it been possible to determine the cluster members in detail by combining a wide variety of data — taken with various telescopes over a period of several decades. The stars are a few 100,000 years old and therefore extraordinarily young for stellar conditions. By comparison, our sun is about 5 billion years old. Due to the high-energy radiation as well as the tidal forces of the galaxy, it should in fact not be possible for such a large number of young stars to be in the direct vicinity of the super massive black hole.

The study was conducted under the title ‘The Evaporating Massive Embedded Stellar Cluster IRS 13 Close to Sgr A*. I. Detection of a Rich Population of Dusty Objects in the IRS13 Cluster’ and has now appeared in The Astrophysical Journal.

In connection with the current study, a further outstanding result has also been published. For the first time, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was used to record a spectrum free of atmospheric interference from the Galactic Center. A prism on board the telescope was developed at the Institute of Astrophysics in the working group led by Professor Dr Andreas Eckart, a co-author of the publication. The present spectrum shows that there is water ice in the Galactic Center. This water ice, which is often found in the dusty discs around very young stellar objects, is another independent indicator of the young age of some stars near the…

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