Astronomers discovered the “deepest and most sharpest images” of the region surrounding the Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole.
The stunning new images, captured at various times earlier this year and released today by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), show several stars moving around their orbit of the black hole, Sagittarius A*.
ESO researchers used VLT (Very Large Telescope), which is located in Atacama Desert in northern Chile to make the shots. This telescope zooms in 20 times faster than it was before.
The black hole has also been revealed to be a star called S300. the most precise estimate of the mass of the Milky Way’s central black hole to date – 4.3 million times that of the Sun.
European Southern Observatory image taken on March 30, 2021 shows stars as little orange blobs around black hole Sagittarius A* at the centre of the Milky Way
ESO images of stars around Sagittarius A* dated May 29 this year. S29, the brightest star in the image and second from the bottom, made the closest approach to the black holes in May 2021.
ESO images taken by the Very Large Telescope, (VLT), show movement of stars in the centre of Milky Way at different points earlier this year
The achievement is detailed in two papers published today in Astronomy & Astrophysics, authored by a international team of experts. They wanted to learn more about Sagittarius A*, which is in the constellation of Sagittarius.
“How big is it?” Is it able to rotate? Does it rotate? said Reinhard Genzel, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany.
“The best method to answer these questions, is to track stars in orbits near the supermassive dark hole. This is how we show that it’s possible to do this with greater precision than ever.
The black holes of spacetime are places where gravity pulls in so strong that no light can escape. Black holes are intense sources of gravity which lift up dust and gas around them.
Stars in our galaxy, including our own Sun, circle Sagittarius A* due to its powerful gravitational pull.
These stars orbit the black holes trillions miles away but they would be swallowed up by it if they got too close.
Luckily, Earth is around 27,000 light years away, or more than 150 trillion miles, from Sagittarius A*.
This chart shows the location of the field of view within which Sagittarius A* resides – the black hole is marked with a red circle within the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). This map displays the most stars visible to an unaided eye in good lighting conditions.
The visible light wide field view of Sagittarius shows rich star cloud formations in this constellation. It is located in the direction that the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy lies. Although the entire image contains a lot of stars, many more are hidden beneath clouds of dust. Infrared images only reveal them. This view was created using photographs taken in red-blue light. It is part of Digitized Sky Survey 2. This view measures approximately 3.5° x 3.6°.
GRAVITY, the GRAVITY research collaboration developed a new method to capture the best images possible of the galactic center of our Milky Way.
They used the Very Large Telescope (VLT), a facility operated by ESO at the Paranal Observatory at Atacama Desert in northern Chile.
Telescopes that make up VLT can work together to form a giant ‘interferometer’ – the VLTI – which allows images to be filtered for any unnecessary obscuring objects.
Julia Stadler from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Garching, said, “The VLTI provides us with this amazing spatial resolution and the new images allow us to reach deeper than we ever have before.”
“We were stunned at their level of detail and the number of stars that they revealed around the black holes.
The team’s latest observations were made between March 2021 and July 2021. They focused their attention on precise measurement of the stars they encountered as they approach the black hole.
The list includes S300 (a newly discovered star) and S29 (a nearby star to the black hole that was closest in 2021.
S29 was able to pass it in just eight billion miles (13 miliarde km), approximately 90 times the distance between Sun and Earth, with a stunning speed of 5,430 mph.
There has been no other known star that can pass so near, or move as fast, around the black hole.
The researchers also managed to fine-tune the distance from Earth to Sagittarius A* to 27,000 light-years away.
VLT Facility updates in the future will increase the technique’s sensitivities to find fainter stars that are closer to the black hole.
This team hopes to find stars that are so close together, their orbits will feel the gravitational effects of the black hole’s spin.
European Southern Observatory image taken on June 24, 2021 shows the stars’ changing positions around Sagittarius A*
ESO images of stars around Sagittarius A* dated July 27 this year. Sagittarius A* is named for its location, in the constellation of Sagittarius
The Very Large Telescope is a collection of instruments found in remote northern Chile’s Atacama Desert.
ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope, (ELT), is currently under construction in Chilean Atacama Desert. It will allow them to further measure velocity of the stars with extremely high precision.
It will also allow researchers to measure how fast the black hole spins – something nobody has been able to do before.
The papers by the two members of this team are now published. “The Galactic Centre’s mass distribution using interferometric astrometry and multiple stellar orbits”, is the title of the paper.
“Deep images from the Galactic Center with GRAVITY” is the second paper.