The massive stars were born less than a light-year from the massive black hole at the centre of our galaxy, which surprised scientists.

Scientists believe that nothing can escape the enormous gravitational force of a black hole, an extremely dense sort of cosmic siphon which swallows everything in its proximity, even light.

"These new results indicate immense disks of gas, orbiting many black holes at a safe distance ... can help nurture the formation of new stars," a Nasa statement said.

The stars were discovered by Sergei Nayakshin of Britain's University of Leicester and Rashid Sunyaev of the Max Plank Institute for Physics in Germany, with the aid of the Nasa's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Contradicting theory

"Massive black holes are usually known for violence and destruction...so it's remarkable this black hole helped create new stars, not just destroy them"

Sergei Nayakshin,
University of Leicester
 

"Massive black holes are usually known for violence and destruction," Nayaksin said. "So it's remarkable this black hole helped create new stars, not just destroy them."

The stars are just far enough away to maintain an orbit around the black hole like planets around the sun, he said.

The newly discovered stars have a mass 30 to 50 times that of our sun and are 100,000 times more brilliant, the astronomers said.

Their brightness indicates that they are burning their hydrogen fuel far more rapidly than our sun and will burn up 80% of their mass in five million years, eventually exploding and turning into small black holes.

The study will be published in the next issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.