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Beyond Earthly Skies

Swarm of Planets Circling a Supermassive Black Hole

9 Aug 2014, 22:00 UTC
Swarm of Planets Circling a Supermassive Black Hole
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A supermassive black hole (SMBH) with ~4 million times the Sun’s mass sits in the centre of the Milky Way. Over the decades, observations have revealed the presence of a group of stars known as the S-stars that orbit very close to the SMBH. The presently known S-stars are stars that are more massive and more luminous than the Sun. This indicates a larger population of fainter members that continue to elude detection. The S-stars zip around the SMBH with speeds of up to ~10,000 km/s. Currently, S0-102 holds the record for being the star with the shortest known orbital period around the SMBH at the galaxy’s centre. S0-102 has an orbital period of 11.5 years.The S-stars are believed to have originated from binary star systems that are disrupted due to close passages near the SMBH. When a binary star system is disrupted, one star can get ejected from the vicinity of the SMBH, while the other star is left behind in a tight orbit around the SMBH. Since planets are ubiquitous around stars, it is reasonable to assume that these disrupted binary star systems have planets of their own, at least before they became disrupted. One study by Ginsburg, ...

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