ESO: Hint of Relativity Effects in Stars' Orbits

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ESO: Hint of Relativity Effects in Stars' Orbits

Postby bystander » Wed Aug 09, 2017 5:46 pm

Hint of Relativity Effects in Stars Orbiting
Supermassive Black Hole at Centre of Galaxy

ESO Announcement | 2017 Aug 09

A new analysis of data from ESO’s Very Large Telescope and other telescopes suggests that the orbits of stars around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way may show the subtle effects predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity. There are hints that the orbit of the star S2 is deviating slightly from the path calculated using classical physics. This tantalising result is a prelude to much more precise measurements and tests of relativity that will be made using the GRAVITY instrument as star S2 passes very close to the black hole in 2018.

At the centre of the Milky Way, 26 000 light-years from Earth, lies the closest supermassive black hole, which has a mass four million times that of the Sun. This monster is surrounded by a small group of stars orbiting at high speed in the black hole’s very strong gravitational field. It is a perfect environment in which to test gravitational physics, and particularly Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

A team of German and Czech astronomers have now applied new analysis techniques to existing observations of the stars orbiting the black hole, accumulated using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile and others over the last twenty years [1]. They compare the measured star orbits to predictions made using classical Newtonian gravity as well as predictions from general relativity.

Investigating the Relativistic Motion of the Stars Near
the Supermassive Black Hole in the Galactic Center
- M. Parsa et al

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