This image shows the supermassive black hole Sgr A* and the region around it. The inset shows Sgr A* and G2. Image credit: NASA / CXC / MIT / F.K. Baganoff et al. / E. Slawik / G. Witzel et al.

A mysterious red object heading towards a black hole at the center of our Galaxy turns out to be a pair of binary stars that have merged together, according to a team of researchers led by Dr Gunther Witzel from the University of California Los Angeles.

Astronomers have been gazing at a giant mystery at the center of our Milky Way galaxy for over a decade now, but a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters claims to have identified the culprit – a pair of binary stars that merged together at some in their history. The object that was falsely believed to be a cloud is now headed toward our galaxy’s supermassive black hole, A* (or Sgr A*).

The object, named G2, is located approximately 26,000 light-years from Earth and has a about three times that of our planet.

“This may be happening more than we thought. The stars at the center of the galaxy are massive and mostly binaries. It’s possible that many of the stars we’ve been watching and not understanding may be the product of mergers that are calm now.”

“It was of the most events in astronomy in my career,” Prof Ghez said. “G2 now is undergoing a ‘spaghetti-fication’ – a common phenomenon near black holes in which large objects become elongated.”

“We are starting to the physics of black holes in a way that has never been possible before,” Prof Ghez concluded.
Greg Giles