Did a parent, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, supervisor, etc., ever say to you in an argument, “You’re not the center of the universe, you know!”
Well, sorry to disappoint, but you’re not the center of the galaxy either.
That honor belongs to a black hole that weighs between 4,250,000 and 4,370,000 times the Sun’s mass and lies somewhere between 26,028 and 27,169 light-years from Earth.
How do I know? Because German astrophysicist Reinhard Genzel and his team at the Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching near Munich recently reported the results of a 16-year study tracking the orbits of 28 speedy stars as they zip around the galactic center. The only object with enough mass to account for the stars’ orbits is a black hole.
We knew that black hole was there, but estimates of its mass and distance varied. In an article I edited last year, I said “3 to 4 million solar masses.” Now we have a nice, solid number for each. Genzel won the prestigious Shaw Prize in Astronomy for 2008 for this research.
Nice, solid numbers make science editors sooooo happy. No longer will awkward phrases like “according to scientists’ best estimate yada yada yada” appear in my work. I can just say “about 27,000 light-years” and “about 4 million solar masses.” In fact, I just did — this morning, as I was putting the final touches on a story mentioning the Spitzer Space Telescope’s discoveries about the Milky Way.
This study appears in the December 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
do you know if the rumour that we are heading closer to the galactic centre as the years go by holds any weight? Possibly the cause of "global warming" and other phenomena around the globe? Thoughts....
i know it probably sounds stupid, but what makes me sad is how even the supermassive black holes all have constellation/number based names. After all, some stars have proper names, so why can't a few noteworthy black holes have some? it'll probably never happen, but i'd like to see some black holes named Tartarus, Erebus, Cerberus, Dante, etc. sorry, i'm just so obsessed!!
No, I haven't heard that. And a connection between the average temperature (i.e., global warming) and the Sun's motions on a galactic scale seems VERY unlikely. The processes are happening on vastly different scales. What coul the possible connection be?
I'm no astrophysicist, but I do know that the only way for a star to get closer to the galactic center is by losing angular momentum. In our case, could friction with the interstellar medium, or gravitational interactions with other stars, cause the Sun to shed a little energy and spiral closer to the galactic center?
Is there an astrophysicst in the house!