A star speeding close to the massive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy was observed for the first time by a team of European researchers.
With giant telescopes pointed at the centre of our galaxy, the team observed a fast-moving star that got close to a monstrous black hole. They saw that the black hole distorted the light waves from the star in a way that agrees with Einstein’s theory.
This was the first test of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity near a supermassive black hole.
“This was the first time we could test directly Einstein’s theory of general relativity near a supermassive black hole,” Frank Eisenhauer, senior astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics said.
Einstein who proposed the theory more than a century ago, suspected that a black hole might be powerful enough to lower the frequency of light under extreme circumstances.
Einstein’s theory of general relativity has passed another test yet again.
How astronomers observed the star speeding close to the massive black hole
A team of scientists at the European Southern Observatory had started monitoring the central area of the Milky Way using the ‘Very Large Telescope’ and had been preparing to observe the motion of stars near the supermassive black hole for several years.
“We have been preparing intensely for this event over several years, as we wanted to make the most of this unique opportunity to observe general relativistic effects,” said Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany, who led the international team.
The scientists, selected a star, S2, knew with an orbit of 16 years it would return close to the black hole in 2018.
Scientists have been monitoring a black hole called Sagittarius A*, which dwells at the center of the Milky Way for decades.
On May 19, 2018, the S2 passed through Sagittarius A*’s gravitational field causing it to be subject to effects predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
The findings were published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
(With inputs from agencies)