Journal Article

Galactic Centre star formation: the case of the missing gas disc

R. D. Alexander, S. L. Smedley, S. Nayakshin and A. R. King

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 419, issue 3, pages 1970-1976
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online January 2012 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.19849.x
Galactic Centre star formation: the case of the missing gas disc

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We study the dynamical evolution of stars and gas close to the centre of the Milky Way. Any plausible means of forming the young stars observed at the Galactic Centre leaves behind a residual gas disc at ∼0.01 pc radii. We show that the combined effects of viscous accretion and gravitational interactions with stars do not remove the residual gas efficiently, and that a substantial gas disc, interior to the stellar disc, persists for >10 Myr after the stars form. Since no such disc is currently seen at the Galactic Centre, we argue that it has been accreted by the supermassive black hole. This scenario offers an attractive connection between nuclear star formation and black hole feeding, and we suggest that the ‘missing’ gas may have been used to power Sgr A*.

Keywords: accretion, accretion discs; black hole physics; stars: formation; Galaxy: centre

Journal Article.  5402 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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