Scientists confirm Einstein's supermassive black hole theory

Theory of General Relativity has Been Confirmed by Scientists in a new Test

Theory of General Relativity has Been Confirmed by Scientists in a new Test

A consortium of astronomers said Thursday they had for the first time confirmed a prediction of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity by observing the gravitational effects of a supermassive black hole on a star zipping by it.

The massive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way is an ideal cosmic laboratory for all kinds of physical tests.

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

In future, he said, "we will see many more effects of general relativity in the galactic centre black hole". The discovery of this gravitational redshift represents the climax of a 26-year-long observation campaign using telescopes of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile.

They were using their Very Large Telescope to observe the motion of stars near the super-massive black hole. In this graphic the colour effect and size of the objects have been exaggerated for clarity.

It was all observed using the Very Large Telescope array in the Chilean desert. Frank Eisenhauer, also from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. The star takes 16 years to complete one orbit and was very close to the black hole in May 2018. That corresponds to about 2.7% of the speed of light.

Artist's illustration of some of the stars orbiting the black hole. This paper will appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on 26 July 2018. 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.

Timelapse of ESO Very Large Telescope's 20-year observation of S2
Timelapse of ESO Very Large Telescope’s 20-year observation of S2 | ESO MPE

"At the time of Einstein, he could not think or dream of what we are showing today", he said.

Previously, scientists have proven that Einstein's explanation of how the universe works stands in the face of highly dense neutron stars and mysterious particles called ghost neutrinos.

Astronomers followed S2 before and after it passed close to the black hole on 19 May 2018, tracking its progress hour-by-hour. The scientists observed the gravitational redshift as stipulated by the Einstein's general theory of relativity. The redshift was exactly what Einstein predicted it would be in the theory of relativity.

"This is the first time that this deviation from the predictions of the simpler Newtonian theory of gravity has been observed in the motion of a star around a supermassive black hole".

The researchers used the SINFONI near-infrared spectrograph to determine the star's velocity in conjunction with the GRAVITY interferometer to map out S2's positions as it moved around the black hole. S2's orbit is also expected to rotate, eventually. In connection with what is known as interferometry, in which the light of several telescopes is merged and overlaid, Gravity creates extremely sharp images. At such a close distance to an object with a much stronger gravitational field, the star exhibited a phenomenon called gravitational redshifting.

"We have put enormous effort into getting the instruments into good shape before the star approached the black hole", said Thibaut Paumard, a researcher at the French National Research Institute, the CNRS, in Paris. During the close passage, even the faint glow around the black hole could be detected on most of the images. Note that the sizes of the black hole and the star are not to scale.

Albert Einstein's theory, first published over 100 years ago, held that gravity happens because matter curves the fabric of space/time.

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