Gravitational close encounter to test relativity theories
If Usain Bolt were a star of the astronomical type he’d be star S0-102, which sprints around the Milky Way’s central black hole with the fastest time yet. It takes just 11.5 years for S0-102 to orbit the supermassive cosmic drain, astronomers report in the Oct. 5 Science.
Not to worry — “it’s not in danger of being sucked in,” says astrophysicist and study coauthor Andrea Ghez of UCLA. “But it is getting close enough that in principle, we can see the impact of the curvature of spacetime on its orbit.”
Spotted using the Keck telescope in Hawaii, S0-102 dethrones another stellar sprinter called S0-2, which takes a comparatively pokey 16 years to orbit the black hole. For nearly two decades, Ghez and her colleagues have been searching for stars moving oddly in this region — first, as proof the black hole exists, and now, as tools to test Einstein’s theory of general relativity, whic