This is the first time that this effect is measured for the gravitational field of a black hole. Thus, the precise measurements of the position of the star allowed the scientists to highlight the effect of gravitational reddening predicted by the theory of Einstein.
"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 Gravity Consortium scientists followed a star (S2) in particular of the Sgr A* system before and after it passed close to the black hole on May 19, 2018.
But the numbers were in close agreement with predictions made using Einstein's theory of general relativity, revealing a phenomenon known as gravitational redshift in which light from S2 is stretched to longer wavelengths in the gravitational field of the black hole.
The effect they observed, gravitational redshift, occurs as particles of light (photons) climb out of a gravitational well like a black hole. Thanks to this precision, the movement of the star could be detected hour by hour as close as possible to the black hole. They also used GRAVITY instrument in the VLT Interferometer (VLTI) that unveils the motion of the star from night to night as it passes close to the black hole. his long-sought result represents the climax of a 26-year-long observation campaign using ESO's telescopes in Chile.
Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity holds up well, even around the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy.
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. "But this time, because of much improved instrumentation, we were able to observe the star with unprecedented resolution", explained in a statement Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany, the leader of ESO's global team.
The German-born theoretical physicist had posited that large gravitational forces could stretch light, much like the compression and stretching of sound waves we perceive with the change of pitch of a passing train.
The center of the milky Way galaxy is relatively calm - there is a supermassive black hole with a mass of about four million solar, but the substance does not fall on it in active mode. All these belong to the ESO's Very Large Telescope, were constructed under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), and scrutinise the sky in an infrared light. And this change in the wavelength agrees precisely with that predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity.
This animation shows the orbit of the star S2 around the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way. The scientists observed the gravitational redshift as stipulated by the Einstein's general theory of relativity. "For this reason, we had to push the technology to the limits".
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