Astronomers have shed light on how stars can form around a massive black hole, defying conventional wisdom.
Scientists have long wondered how stars develop in such extreme conditions.
Molecular clouds – the normal birth places of stars – would be ripped apart by the immense gravity, a team explains in Science magazine.
But the researchers say stars can form from elliptical discs – the relics of giant gas clouds torn apart by encounters with black holes.
They made the discovery after developing computer simulations of giant gas clouds being sucked into black holes like water spiralling down a plughole.
“These simulations show that young stars can form in the neighbourhood of supermassive black holes as long as there is a reasonable supply of massive clouds of gas from further out in the galaxy,” said co-author Ian Bonnell from St Andrews University, UK.
Their findings are in accordance with actual observations in our Milky Way galaxy that indicate the presence of a massive black hole, surrounded by huge stars with eccentric orbits.