What is X7 ?
Scientists discovered a long, mysterious object that has undergone a sudden and dramatic evolution and is situated near the Milky Way galaxy’s supermassive black hole. According to researchers headed by astronomer Anna Ciurlo of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the mysterious object known as X7 has changed shape significantly and grown to be more than twice as long as it was previously.
The shift in shape of the object indicates that the strange blob is most likely made of debris or a cloud of gas and dust created when two stars collided lately.
For decades, astronomers have been watching a mysterious blob called X7 drift around the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole, pondering where it originated from. Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole 4.6 million times the mass of our Sun, lies at the center of the Milky Way. It is orbited by several stars as well as a few strange objects, including the enigmatic X7.
It’s conceivable that X7 won’t last much longer and will become food for Sagittarius A* within the next 15 years. If the object is a debris cloud, its finding sheds light on some of the galactic center’s fascinating dynamics, such as the frequency of stellar collisions and the effects of extreme gravity. In just a few years, the mass of dust and gas will become increasingly spaghettified, eventually collapsing into the black hole Sagittarius A* (SgrA*).
Is it just a Gas Cloud?
X7 is similar to other unexplained blobs known as G objects that circle the galactic centre. These were found about 20 years ago and presented a significant puzzle: they resembled gas clouds but acted like stars, stretching out at periastron but emerging intact and shrinking back down to a more compact shape to continue their orbits.
Astronomers theorized that the G objects were stars that had merged, creating a massive cloud of material that remained within the newly merged star’s gravitational field, hiding it from view. Then, in 2021, it was discovered that one of these objects, G2, was a molecular cloud concealing three baby stars; however, the identities of the others remain unclear.
While there are some similarities, X7 is also very distinct from the G objects. Its form and velocity have changed more dramatically than those of the G objects as it stretches out and accelerates towards Sgr A*.
So, while X7 may not be the same as the G objects, it is conceivable that it is related. Because X7 isn’t held together by a mass lurking in its core, it’s expected to live much shorter than G objects; this could explain why others of its kind have yet to be discovered. Meanwhile, the merged star from which X7 puffed could still be in the galactic center, on its own path. The researchers observe that its orbit is very similar to that of G3 and speculate that G3 could be the parent object. So X7 still remains of controvertible nature.
Mass of 50 Earths
The researchers calculated X7’s mass, which is approximately 50 times that of Earth, after observing it for several years. That might be a lot to an Earth resident, but in space it’s virtually a sneeze, not even equaling a sixth of Jupiter’s mass. Changes in the location and velocity of the debris cloud also indicate that it is in an elliptical orbit around the galactic center with a period of about 170 years. Or, at least, it would be if it were a little more put together.
Simulations indicate that it will not get the chance to complete a single orbit. It is expected to make its closest pass to Sgr A*, known as periastron, in 2036. The gravitational environment will tear the cloud apart at this point, leaving diffuse remnants that will continue to circle the black hole until they disappear irretrievably beyond its event horizon. When this occurs, anyone who happens to be nearby may see some fireworks.
It’s not simple to rule out other possibilities right now. X7 could have been a piece of debris from a bigger cloud, for example. Additional insights may help narrow it down. And, of course, watching X7 as it approaches its demise should be fascinating and rewarding in and of itself. To be explicit, Sgr A* and everything in its vicinity is more than 20,000 light-years away from our vantage point on Earth, implying that this extreme situation occurred more than 20,000 years ago.
We only got the video now because the luminescence from the storm took so long to reach our telescopes. When thinking about supermassive black holes, it isn’t uncommon to picture them causing mass annihilation across our universe. Scattered across the fabric of space, black holes just lie there with their immense gravitational might until a star – or, in this case, an interstellar cloud – comes too near.
Slowly, the blob approaches the black hole, passing the event horizon, the hazy boundary between our universe and whatever lurks within the abyss. Nothing can get past this area. Atoms, sound, light, and most emphatically not the black hole’s now-shriveled-up X7. No, by then, this thing would no longer be a part of our world. It would be a part of another world.