A By The Washington Post
n international team of astronomers says it has confirmed that an enormous black hole lurks at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy.
Rainer Schodel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, and colleagues analyzed 10 years of high-resolution imaging of the star closest to the center of the galaxy.
The researchers for the first time tracked a star completing an orbit around an unusual source of radiation, showing that it orbits the galactic center every 15.2 years, coming as close as just 17 light hours from the center.
The orbit indicates the presence of a tiny object with a mass about 3.7 million times that of the sun, the researchers concluded – essentially ruling out competing theories, such as the presence of a cluster of unusual stars of elementary particles.
The findings should help scientists learn more about how the black hole compares with those in other galaxies, said Karl Gebhardt of the University of Texas at Austin in an article accompanying the report in the Oct. 17 Nature.
“We still have a way to go, but for this black hole the future is bright,” he wrote.