Home LATEST NEWS Journey to the center of the Milky Way

Journey to the center of the Milky Way

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The VLTI enabled to zoom 20 times more than what was possible before, says ESO in a press release.

This precision made it possible to detect a star never observed before, called S300, near the black hole Sagittarius A * located in the center of the Milky Way.

The center of the Milky Way.  The image consists of dark clouds in which it is possible to see a few bright spots.

This image shows the star clusters that inhabit the constellation Sagittarius in the direction of the center of the Milky Way. The entire image is filled with stars, but many of them are obscured by clouds of dust and only reveal their presence in the infrared domain.

Photo: ESO / Sky Survey 2 / Davide De Martin and S. Guisard

In addition, by analyzing the orbits of stars in the center of the galaxy, the German team of Prof. Reinhard Genzel from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics has made the most precise measurement to date of the mass of the black hole.

We want to know more about the black hole. […] What is its exact mass? Does he turn? Do the stars around it behave exactly as we would expect from Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity?, wonders astrophysicist Reinhard Genzel, who has been studying the environment of the black hole for three decades.

To answer these questions, the researchers tracked stars in orbits close to the supermassive black hole.

The VLTI gives us this incredible spatial resolution and with the new images we are reaching a depth never reached before. We’re amazed at the amount of detail they show, as well as the action and number of stars they reveal around the black hole, adds Julia Stadler, researcher at the Max Planck Institute.

The Milky Way seen from the ground

The Milky Way seen from Earth.

Photo: iStock

With its latest observations, made between March and July 2021, the team made precise measurements of certain stars as they approach the black hole.

billion kilometers from the black hole, roughly 90 times the Sun-Earth distance, at a staggering 8740kilometers per second, “,” text “:” Among these is S29, which holds the record for the star that came closest to the black hole at the end of May 2021. It is passed a distance of only 13 billion kilometers from the black hole, or about 90 times the distance Sun-Earth, at the staggering speed of 8740 kilometers per second, “}}”>Among these is S29, which holds the record for the star that came closest to the black hole at the end of May 2021. It passed at a distance of only 13 billion kilometers from the black hole, roughly 90 times the Sun-Earth distance, at the staggering speed of 8,740 kilometers per second, notes the press release.

No other star has ever been observed passing so close to the black hole or around it so quickly.

The new data collected, combined with those obtained in the past, confirm that the stars follow exactly the trajectories predicted by general relativity for objects moving around a black hole with a mass of 4.3 million times that of the Sun.

000 light years from Earth “,” text “:” This is the most accurate estimate to date of the mass of the central black hole in the Milky Way. The researchers also succeeded in refining the distance of Sagittarius A *, which is 27,000 light years from Earth “}}”>This is the most accurate estimate to date of the mass of the central Milky Way black hole. The researchers also succeeded in refining the distance of Sagittarius A *, which is 27,000 light years from Earth., the statement continued.

The details of this study are published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics (New window) (in English).

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