Giant ring of gas and dust spotted around Milky Way’s black hole

Milkyway

Researchers have captured new images of a ring of gas and dust seven light-years in diameter surrounding the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

The telescope also captured images of a neighboring cluster of extremely luminous young stars embedded in dust cocoons.

Ryan Lau of Cornell University and his collaborators studied the galaxy's circumlunar ring (CNR), while Matt Hankins of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway is lead author of the other paper, regarding the quintuplet cluster (QC).

The images were obtained during SOFIA flights in 2011 with the FaintObject Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) instrument built by a team with principal investigator Terry Herter of Cornell.

FORCAST offered astronomers the ability to see the CNR and QC regions and other exotic cosmic features whose light is obscured by water vapor in Earth's atmosphere and interstellar dust clouds in the mid-plane of the Milky Way.

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