Topics: Astrophysics, Black Holes, Einstein, General Relativity, Gravity
|This artist’s rendition shows the orbits of stars circling the supermassive black hole (blue halo) at the Milky Way’s center. A close analysis suggests the stars’ orbits are showing subtle effects predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Credit: ESO/M. Parsa/L. Calçada
A group of astronomers in Germany and the Czech Republic observed three stars in a cluster near the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Using data from the Very Large Telescope in Chile, among others, the researchers tracked how the stars moved as they went around the monster black hole.
One of the stars, called S2, showed slight deviations in its orbit that might indicate relativistic effects, scientists said. If the observations are confirmed, then it shows that Einstein's theory of general relativity holds even under extreme conditions — in gravity fields produced by objects like the galactic center's black hole, which contains the mass of 4 million suns. General relativity says that massive objects bend the space around them, causing other objects to deviate from straight lines they would follow absent any forces on them.
Closest Supermassive Black Hole Tests Einstein’s Relativity, Jesse Emspak, SPACE.com and Scientific American