August 17, 2022

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A star orbiting the Milky Way’s black hole at 18 million miles per hour

A recently discovered star, now known as S4716, is traveling at an astonishing 5,000 miles (8,000 km) per second around the black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. mentioned.

The vast expanse of our universe means astronomers are always discovering something they’ve never seen before. Earlier this week, astronomers found out Two bus-sized asteroids Heading toward Earth, it will pass a quarter of the distance separating us from the Moon.

Besides asteroids, our galaxy is of particular interest to astronomers looking for signs of other life-supporting planets. Despite this, at the center of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* or Sgr A* and S4716 is orbiting this black hole at breakneck speed.

What do we know about S4716?

From observations made so far, S4716 is the fastest star orbiting Sgr A*, at 5,000 miles per second (8,000 km) or 18 million miles (29 million km) per hour. It completes its orbit at a diameter of 14.6 million km (23.5 million mi). black hole In just four years.

S4716 is part of a dense group of other stars orbiting Sgr A* that astronomers refer to as the S group. All stars in this group move at high speeds but differ in their mass and brightness. Another star in this group, called S2, is more commonly known and larger than S4716.

However, S2’s orbit around the black hole takes 16 years and approaches 11 billion miles (18 billion km) from Sgr A*. By comparison, S4716 is about 9.2 billion miles (150 million km) closer to the black hole, about 100 times the distance between Earth and the Sun.

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The discovery of a star so close to a black hole could change our understanding of the evolution of our galaxy and its fast-moving stars. Michael Sajek, an astrophysicist at Masaryk University Report. “The stars It does not easily form near a black hole. S4716 had to move inward, for example, and its orbit contracted dramatically by approaching stars and other objects in the S cluster.

How did astronomers discover the fastest star?

Although S2 helps us understand more details about Sgr A*, it has its drawbacks. “The S2 acts like a giant sitting in front of you in a movie theater – blocking your view of what’s important. So S2 mostly obscures the view of our galaxy’s center,” he said Florian Bisker, an astrophysicist at the University of Cologne who was involved in the study, said in a statement.

Bisker and his team used the data Five telescopes, NIR2 and OSIRIS at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, and the much larger SINFONI, NACO, and GRAVITY telescopes have spent more than two decades refining their analysis techniques to confirm S4716’s orbital period. “It’s totally unexpected for a star in a stable orbit to be so close and so fast to a supermassive black hole,” Bisker added.

Search was published in Astrophysical Journal.


Continued observations of the galactic center and Sgr A*, the central supermassive black hole, are yielding surprising and unexpected results. This goes hand-in-hand with the technological development of terrestrial and space-based telescopes and instruments, but also with the development of image filtering techniques such as the Lucy Richardson algorithm. We present the discovery of a new stellar source, termed S4716, as we continue to track members of the S cluster near Sgr A* along their predicted path around the supermassive black hole. The newly discovered star orbits Sgr A* every 4.0 years and can be detected by NIRC2 (Keck), OSIRIS (Keck), SINFONI (VLT), NACO (VLT) and GRAVITY (VLTI). With a marginal distance of about 100 au, S4716 shows a similar distance to Sgr A* as S4711. As these fast-moving stars undergo similar dynamical evolution, S4711 – S4716 share similar orbital characteristics. Also, we will relate the recent discovery of a faint new star called S300 to the data presented here. Additionally, in 2017 we observed a stellar merger event with S4716 and another newly identified S star, S148.

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