Speedy Star Swoops In Perilously Close to Milky Way’s Giant Black Hole
Astronomers have found a star that breaks speed records as it orbits the Milky Way’s central black hole, covering 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) per second as it whips around the black hole in less than a dozen years.
Image: The orbits of stars within the central arcsecond of our galaxy. In the background, the central portion of a diffraction-limited image taken in 2012 is displayed. Image released October 4, 2012. Credit: Andrea Ghez and research team at UCLA/data sets obtained with W. M. Keck Telescopes
The discovery offers scientists a unique chance within the decade to test Einstein’s theory of relativity in an extreme environment.
The star is named S0-102. It’s one of a class of “S-stars” that surround the center of the sun’s home galaxy in a kind of spherical shell. It has an orbital period of 11.5 years, give or take 3 1/2 months, making it the shortest-period star ever found in the region. The previous record was set by S0-2, which has a 16-year period.