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Einstein theory passes black hole test

28 July 2018

Its mass is equivalent to no less than 4 million times that of the Sun.

The observations were carried out by an worldwide team led by Genzel with collaborators at the Paris Observatory-PSL, the Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, the University of Cologne, the Portuguese CENTRA - Centro de Astrofisica e Gravitação and the European Southern Observatory.

"This is the second time that we have observed the close passage of S2 around the black hole in our galactic centre".

Artist's illustration of some of the stars orbiting the black hole.

When this star is so close to the black hole, begin to affect the effects of General relativity - the gravity of a black hole bends the path of light rays from a star in a particular way, which does not describe the Newtonian theory of gravitation.

This time the effects of the famed scientist's principles were witnessed on the motion of a star passing through the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way.

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The shortest distance between S2 and the black hole, on 19 May, was approximately 14 billion kilometres.

The black hole responsible was Sagittarius A* (pronounced "Sagittarius A-star"), the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

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They compared the position and speed estimations from GRAVITY and SINFONI individually, alongside past observations of S2 utilizing different instruments, with the predictions of Newtonian gravity, general relativity and different hypotheses of gravity.

The new measurements clearly reveal an effect called gravitational redshift.

The scientists have found out that the star's orbital velocity increased to more than 25 million kph as it approached the black hole and its wavelength stretched as it sought to escape the gravitational pull of the super-massive black hole which in turn made the star turn red.

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The results were perfectly in line with the theory of general relativity - and not explained by Sir Isaac Newton's ideas - which exclude such a shift.

"We have been preparing intensely for this event over several years, as we wanted to make the most of this unique opportunity to observe general relativistic effects". Among these instruments was an interferometer which combines the light from four 8-meter telescopes known as the GRAVITY. On these images, the motion of the star can even be followed from night to night as it passes close to the black hole - 26,000 light-years from Earth.

S2 is one member of a star cluster that surrounds Sagittarius A*.

The astronomers are continuing to observe S2; observations of its trajectory should yield new findings about the extreme conditions around the Milky Way's central black hole.

Reinhard Genzel, also from MPE, said: "There is still more work to do to really come as close as you can to the event horizon [the "point of no return" of the black hole] where you might expect strong deviations from Einstein's theory".

"More than one hundred years after he published his paper setting out the equations of general relativity, Albert Einstein has been proved right once more - in a much more extreme laboratory than he could have possibly imagined".

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Einstein theory passes black hole test