The general theory of relativity by Albert Einstein has been proven right once again. After almost 30 years of watching, scientists have found a small change in the orbit of the star closest to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. This change exactly confirms Einstein’s prediction.
The star, called S2, moves in an elliptical path that takes 16 years. Last year, it was only 20 billion kilometers away from our black hole, Sagittarius A*. If Isaac Newton’s traditional explanation of gravity is right, S2 should then keep going around in space like it did before. But it didn’t work.
According to research published today in Astronomy & Astrophysics by a team using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, it went in a slightly different direction and the axis of its ellipse changed slightly. As predicted by general relativity, Schwarzschild precession will eventually cause S2 to move in space in a way that looks like a spirograph drawing of a flower (as illustrated above).
The researchers say that their thorough monitoring of S2 will let them figure out how much dark matter and smaller black holes, which can’t be seen, are near Sagittarius A*. This is in addition to giving relativity another tough test. This might help them figure out how such huge things grow and change.