Racing star could prove Einstein theory

2012-10-05 08:29

Los Angeles - US astronomers have found evidence of a star racing tightly around the monstrous black hole at the heart of our galaxy - the closest ever found near the matter-sucking body.

The scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, said the discovery will help them test Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity and his predictions of how black holes warp space and time.

The star, S0-102, is orbiting the black hole every 11-and-a-half Earth years, much faster than the 60 years or longer orbit of most of the stars around the Milky Way's black hole centre.

This is only the second star discovered with such a short orbit - the other, S0-2, orbits the black hole every 16 years - thanks to improved imaging techniques.

Lead researcher Andrea Ghez, who has been observing the black hole since she discovered it in 1998, said the second data point is crucial for their research.


"It is the tango of S0-102 and S0-2 that will reveal the true geometry of space and time near a black hole for the first time," she said in a statement. "This measurement cannot be done with one star alone."

Like the Earth and other planets, both stars have elliptical orbits - meaning they regularly move closer and further from the black hole.

Ghez and her team at UCLA hope to see evidence of little wobbles in the orbit when the stars move closer, which would show they are being affected by the curvature of space time, as predicted by Einstein's theory.

Ghez added it was "phenomenal" to find two stars so close to the black hole.

"This should not be a neighbourhood where stars feel particularly welcome," she said.

Black holes, which are what is left when a massive star dies and collapses in on itself, have a gravitational force so strong that even light cannot escape.

They cannot be seen directly, and so are observed through their influence on the things around them.

"Now it's a whole new ballgame," Ghez said, adding that the team's investigations could open a new window into understanding black holes and how the universe evolves.

The research will be published in Friday's issue of the US journal Science.

  • markus.botha - 2012-10-05 08:58

    It's already been proven by Arthur Eddington. During the solar eclipse of 29 May 1919 he took pictures of the stars in the region around the Sun. According to the theory of general relativity, stars with light rays that passed near the Sun would appear to have been slightly shifted because their light had been curved by its gravitational field. This effect is noticeable only during eclipses, since otherwise the Sun's brightness obscures the affected stars. Eddington showed that Newtonian gravitation could be interpreted to predict half the shift predicted by Einstein.

      JuliusYouPrick - 2012-10-05 09:03

      How much would I NOT want to have dinner with you!

      greg.quinn.353 - 2012-10-05 09:10

      @Julius, what would you talk about? The latest episode of the Kardashians?

      jody.beggs - 2012-10-05 09:46

      @JuliusYouPrick you should just stick to church ...

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-10-05 10:08

      He gave a knowledgeable, informed comment; what is the problem with that? Or are you one of those that prefer 'facts' sucked out the thumb, or taken out a stone-age book?

      baldersnatch - 2012-10-05 15:12

      Well I'm not sure they confirmed all observable observables in that single experiment. What about ?

      dean.clark.1029 - 2012-10-06 12:52

      I did not understand the article to mean that. I think you are referring to two separate theories, which while complimentary, are not testing for the same outcome.   Eddington’s experiments were to prove that light did indeed have mass, and could therefore be affected by light.   The purpose of this experiment is to see if the increase in gravity would affect the perception of time. E=MC2   Essentially as the star gives off a relatively constant “beam” of light per second as perceived by the star, if the time experience was increased or decreased relative to us (an outside observer) the amount of light would increase or decrease.   That was my understanding. But yeah, I could definitely be wrong.   PS Dinner would be interesting lol

  • jomardl - 2012-10-05 09:05

    For a second there I thought Schumacher was taking up quantum physics in his retirement.

      greg.quinn.353 - 2012-10-05 09:09

      LOL I immediately thought F1 as well when I read the title...

      merven.halo - 2012-10-05 09:17

      They said : racing star not racing fading star... ;[)

  • dylan.pearson3 - 2012-10-05 11:00

    This is awesome,id love to know what happens to the star when it gets into the black hole,maybe goes to another time!

      james.whyte.104 - 2012-10-05 12:05

      Maybe it gets sucked into the black hole and is expelled through charlesdumbwin's black hole

  • dylan.pearson3 - 2012-10-05 11:00

    This is awesome,id love to know what happens to the star when it gets into the black hole,maybe goes to another time!

      SarcasticAgnostic - 2012-10-05 13:40

      Umm...a black-hole is a singularity, not a wormhole.

      james.whyte.104 - 2012-10-05 14:03

      I understood that the singularity is at the centre of the black hole. the black hole covers the naked singularity with the event horizon. If i am wrong please correct.

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