Einstein’s predictions on supermassive black hole theory confirmed

Einstein’s predictions on supermassive black hole theory confirmed

The gravitational redshift occurs when the light that escapes a region with a strong gravitational field and the light waves are stretched out becoming reddish in appearance. This image shows the star and black hole shortly before their closest approach in May 2018.

It's when the wavelength of light gets stretched out in response to a gravitational field.

"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", says Genzel.

The one at the center of the Milky Way has a mass of four million times that of our own sun, which means it has a commensurate gravitational pull that affects everything that ventures anywhere close to it.

By observing a cluster of stars near the hole, they were able to confirm a phenomenon known as "gravitational redshift".

He then spent 10 years trying to include acceleration in the theory, finally publishing his theory of general relativity in 1915.

A team of scientists at the European Southern Observatory started monitoring the central area of the Milky Way using its Very Large Telescope to observe the motion of stars near the supermassive black hole 26 years ago.

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. In this graphic the colour effect and size of the objects have been exaggerated for clarity.

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Information was observed by and collected with the GRAVITY, SINFONI, and NACO instruments on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT).

With an orbit of 16 years, they knew it would return close to the black hole in 2018. With enormous telescopes pointed at the centre of our galaxy, the researchers saw the black hole distorted the light waves emanating from the star. It takes about 15 years to complete its full orbit. The gravitational fields near this black hole are quite strong. In fact, the new results are inconsistent with Newtonian predictions, although they are in excellent agreement with the predictions of the general theory of relativity. At the time of Einstein, he could not think or dream of what we are showing today.

The GRAVITY instrument in the VLT Interferometer has tracked the motion of the star S2 as it made a very close approach to the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. The redshift was exactly what Einstein predicted it would be in the theory of relativity.

An artist's impression shows the position of a star known as S2 as it swung around the supermassive black hole at the core of the Milky Way in May.

Other instruments at the observatory measured the speed at which S2 traveled toward or away from Earth while it swung by Sgr A*. Astronomers use Gravity to make extraordinarily precise measurements of the changing position of S2, and thus also of the shape of its orbit. In this case, it is the influence of the black hole on the stars that surround it.

The very close passage happened on may 19. "In this way, we could follow the star on its orbit to an extremely high degree of precision, and could ultimately provide evidence of the gravitational redshift in the spectrum of S2". Note that the sizes of the black hole and the star are not to scale.

More than 100 years after he published his paper setting out the equations of general relativity, Einstein has been proved right once more - in a much more extreme laboratory than he could have possibly imagined.

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