Astronomers watch star dance with a black hole, proving Einstein right (again)


The mammoth black hole at the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A* (or, in short, Sgr A*), is orbited by a veritable buffet of stars which are beholden to its gargantuan gravitational effects. After three decades observing star S2, which orbits Sgr A*, an international collaboration of researchers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have come to a familiar conclusion: Einstein was right, again. The study, published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on Thursday, peered into the heart of our home galaxy and followed the movements of S2 over 27 years using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope, an all-seeing cosmic eye located in the Atacama Desert of Chile. S2’s orbit carries it close to the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole and this orbit provides a natural, experimental setting for astronomers to test out Einstein’s general theory of relativity. That theory dictates how space, time and gravity interact and says huge, dense objects like black holes can warp space around them. When scientists went hunting for an image of a black hole in 2019, Einstein’s predictions about what they might see held true.


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