Monitoring star in Milky Way, scientists confirm Einstein's supermassive black hole theory


This diagram shows the motion of the star S2 around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. "So it's very important in astronomy to also check that those laws are still valid where the gravitational fields are very much stronger".

Einstein's theory of relativity has passed the most rigorous test to date, this time withstanding the super-strong gravitational field of a supermassive black hole.

Black holes offer a good opportunity to test that idea. Its extremely strong gravitational field influences the surrounding area and has an impact on the motion of stars passing by.

In future, he said, "we will see many more effects of general relativity in the galactic centre black hole".

During May 2018, the star closed by the supermassive black hole at 20 billion kilometers and accelerated to 3% of the speed of light which is very fast for a star.

He then spent 10 years trying to include acceleration in the theory, finally publishing his theory of general relativity in 1915.

An worldwide team of scientists studying Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, has found that, even in the vicinity of the strongest gravitational field in the galaxy, Einstein's relativity applies.

As it got close to the black hole the star appeared redder as the light leaving it was stretched out by the gravitational pull of the massive object - as described by Einstein's general relativity theory.

Any object that comes near to the body falls towards it because of the effect.

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It was all observed using the Very Large Telescope array in the Chilean desert.

Partnering with the Max Planck Institute in the consortium were French research institute CNRS, the Paris Observatory and several French universities along with Portugal's CENTRA astrophysics centre. This star was traveling at almost 3% the speed of light, at 25 million kilometres per hour. It takes about 15 years to complete its full orbit. This event is reportedly consistent with the predictions from Einstein's theory of general relativity. In fact, the new results are inconsistent with Newtonian predictions, although they are in excellent agreement with the predictions of the general theory of relativity.

Frank Eisenhauer, from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany, said the measurement opened the door to more studies of the physics of black holes. "But this time, because of much improved instrumentation, we were able to observe the star with unprecedented resolution", explained in a statement Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany, the leader of ESO's global team.

"The new measurements clearly reveal an effect called gravitational redshift", the astronomers said.

Gravitational redshift occurs because, in order to escape a gravitational well such as a black hole, particles of light (photons) must expend energy.

The light distorted in a way which agrees with Albert Einsteins' theory.

The detection was made by observing the motion of a star near a supermassive black hole.

The trail-blazing observations were made using the Very Large Telescope and the GRAVITY, SINFONI and NACO adaptive optics instrumentation. Astronomers use Gravity to make extraordinarily precise measurements of the changing position of S2, and thus also of the shape of its orbit. Among these instruments was an interferometer which combines the light from four 8-meter telescopes known as the GRAVITY.

The scientists now hope to observe other theories of black hole physics, she said.