Tuesday, August 16

This is how stars that are about to die engulfed by a supermassive black hole dance

At the center of our galaxy there is a monster and Reinhard Genzel has been obsessed with it for a lifetime. It is no wonder: that a voracious, disproportionate, almost inconceivable creature that lives 27,000 light years from Earth and has a mass 4.30 million times that of the Sun, earned him (along with Penrose and Ghez) the award Nobel Prize in Physics of 2020. But not even that has stopped his obsession.

This week he and his team published two studies in Astronomy & Astrophysics magazine where 30 years of research on the stars that dance around Sagittarius A * culminate. To do this, they have had to develop a new analysis technique that has pulverized those that existed until now.

A dance with death

“The Very Large Telescope (VLT) Interferometer gives us incredible spatial resolution and, with the new images, we reach a depth never before achieved. We are stunned by your amount of detail, and by the activity and the number of stars that reveal around the black hole ”, explained Julia Stadler of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics.

To do this, as I said, the researchers had to be able to use interferometry to combine the light from the four VLT telescopes. It is a complex and very demanding technique, but you get “images 20 times sharper” than with the usual techniques.

In fact, the team has been able to find new stars never seen before. Stars like S29 have also been studied. This star, traveling at 8740 kilometers per second is the closest to the black hole they found: it passed “only” 13,000 million kilometers (about 90 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun).

But the most interesting thing is without a doubt the very precise image of the gravitational field of Sagittarius A * that they have achieved and that, more than 100 years after it was enunciated, we once again confirm that the Theory of Relativity is right again: stars behave just as old Einstein predicts.

Image | ESO / GRAVITY collaboration


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