Stars Born Near Black Hole

Dozens of massive stars, destined for a short but brilliant life, were born less than a light-year away from the Milky Way's central black hole, one of the most hostile environments in our galaxy, astronomers reported yesterday.

On Earth, this might be a bit like setting up a maternity ward on the side of an active volcano. But researchers using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and other instruments believe there is a safe zone around black holes, a big dust ring where stars can form.

Black holes have gravitational pull so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape once within the hole's grasp.

The young stars, however, are just far enough away to be held in orbit around the hole much as planets orbit the sun, said Sergei Nayakshin of the University of Leicester, England.

Over perhaps 5 million years -- a blink of an eye in astronomical time -- these high-mass stars would be likely to lose 80 percent of their mass and explode as supernovae, transforming into smaller black holes around the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy.

Mexican Immigrants' Health

Coming to the United States can be bad for your health if you are a Mexican immigrant, according to a study released yesterday.

The joint Mexican-U.S. report found that most Mexican immigrants arrive in the United States in better health than the white American population but their health deteriorates the longer they stay, partly because of a lack of insurance and the change in lifestyle.

"It is unknown . . . if worsening health status is a result of years of difficult labor and poverty, changing health behaviors like diet and smoking, or insufficient preventive medical care," the report said.

Contrary to the widespread belief that immigrants place an undue burden on hospital emergency rooms, the study found that only 10 percent of recent immigrants from Mexico use emergency rooms, compared with 20 percent of U.S.-born whites.

The study, by the University of California and the Mexican government's National Population Council, is aimed at improving the health of migrants living in the United States.

Researchers found that 6.8 percent of recent adult Mexican immigrants assessed their own health as fair or poor, compared with 10.6 percent of U.S.-born whites, and just 2.6 percent have diabetes. After 15 years in the United States, 15 percent of Mexicans said their health was fair or poor and 7.7 percent had diagnosed diabetes.

FDA Panel to Study HIV Test

OraSure Technologies Inc. said advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next month will consider whether consumers should use its 20-minute HIV test without medical supervision.

Orasure said it will discuss selling its OraQuick Advance Rapid test for home use without a prescription at a Nov. 3 advisory panel meeting. OraSure said it has not yet filed an application to market home use of its product, which can test saliva or blood. The FDA said its panel will only discuss "approaches" to such a test.

The only home test now sold, by closely held Home Access, requires shipping samples to a lab and waiting at least three days for telephone results that include counseling for those who have the virus that leads to AIDS. FDA advisers may suggest OraSure's test also offer some form of counseling.

-- From News Services