A STRANGE spiral object has been discovered by researchers – and it has a hidden secret.

Scientists have discovered what looks to be a miniature spiral galaxy near the center of our Milky Way galaxy, according to a new study.

An illustration of the mysterious spiral’s history, showing (from bottom to top) its evolution 12,000 years ago, 8,000 years ago, 4,000 years ago, and today.


An illustration of the mysterious spiral’s history, showing (from bottom to top) its evolution 12,000 years ago, 8,000 years ago, 4,000 years ago, and today.Credit: Shanghai Astronomical Observatory

The spiral, however, is made of gas and dust and revolves around a single large star.

Located about 26,000 light-years from Earth, this star is massive – around 32 times as big as our solar system’s Sun.

It also sits within a larger disk of swirling gas, known as a “protostellar disk”.

There are thousands of these disks throughout the universe as they help to ‘feed’ young stars, enabling them to evolve into large suns.

A unique find

Researchers discovered this mysterious spiral via the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile.

It’s considered a ‘unique’ discovery because astronomers have never observed a disk like this before – one that resembles a miniature galaxy and is located dangerously close to our galaxy’s center.

The team of scientists also found that the disk doesn’t appear to be moving in a way that’s consistent with other known spiral objects.

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Instead, it seems that the object may have formed from a near-collision with another body.

To test their theory, the researchers looked at dozens of possible orbits for the strange object.

And then they conducted a simulation to see if any of them could produce the spiral shape.

After their assessments, the researchers concluded that outer objects may be able to blow star disks into spiral forms.

“The nice match among analytical calculations, the numerical simulation and the ALMA observations provides robust evidence that the spiral arms in the disk are relics of the flyby of the intruding object,” study co-author Lu Xing, an associate researcher from the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.

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Essentially, the findings show that disks are subject to processes such as flybys early on in their evolution.

And these processes can immensely influence the formation of stars and planets. 

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