Albert Einstein may be long gone, but the most famous scientist in history would be more than pleased at what astronomers have managed to observe recently. In a study published in April, those star-gazing scientists discussed a scientific first: a star orbiting a black hole in our own galaxy.
So what makes it so special that this star is making its way around a gigantic black hole in our Milky Way galaxy? Well, besides it being the first time in recorded history, there’s also a unique tie to Einstein.
According to Reinhard Genzel, the director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany (how does he fit that title on a business card?), there’s a special connection to the famous German scientist.
“Einstein’s general relativity predicts that bound orbits of one object around another are not closed, as in Newtonian gravity, but precess forwards in the plane of motion,” Genzel explained.
If you’re not a science whiz, that may have flown over your head. In simpler terms, the observed orbit pattern does not match up to Newton’s theory of gravity. Rather, it supports Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
Studying this supermassive black hole, which is referred to as Sagittarius A*, is an incredible feat in itself. After all, it’s only located 26,000 light years away from the sun.
One of the stars being observed orbiting the black hole is known as S2. And let’s just say it’s not in a hurry to make its way around Sagittarius A*. It’s supremely slow orbiting speed measures out to just three percent the speed of light.
By the time it makes a full orbit around the black hole, it will take about 16 years. Maybe by then, life will be back to normal.
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