A newly discovered star only takes four years to travel around the black hole at the center of our Milky Way.
Astronomers have discovered the fastest known star, which travels around a
In the area near the black hole at the center of our galaxy is a densely packed cluster of stars. This cluster, called the S cluster, is home to well over a hundred stars that differ in their brightness and mass. S stars move particularly fast.
“One prominent member, S2, behaves like a large person sitting in front of you in a movie theater: it blocks your view of what’s important,” said Dr. Florian Peissker, lead author of the new study. “The view into the center of our galaxy is therefore often obscured by S2. However, in brief moments we can observe the surroundings of the central black hole.”
Stars in the S cluster orbit the black hole at the center of our galaxy at great speed. S4716 is the fastest. Credit: Florian Peissker, University of Cologne
By means of continuously refining methods of analysis, together with observations spanning almost twenty years, the astronomers have now identified without a doubt a star that travels around the central supermassive black hole in just four years. In total, five telescopes observed the star, with four of these five being combined into one large telescope to allow even more accurate and detailed observations.
“For a star to be in a stable orbit so close and fast in the vicinity of a supermassive black hole was completely unexpected and marks the limit that can be observed with traditional telescopes,” said Peissker.
Moreover, the discovery sheds new light on the origin and evolution of the orbit of fast-moving stars in the heart of the
Reference: “Observation of S4716—a Star with a 4 yr Orbit around Sgr A*” by Florian Peißker, Andreas Eckart, Michal Zajacek and Silke Britzen, 5 July 2022, The Astrophysical Journal.
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