alexa Closest Star Seen Orbiting the Supermassive Black Hole at the Centre of the Milky Way


Journal of Astrophysics & Aerospace Technology

Author(s): A M Ghez, S Salim, S D Hornstein, A Tanner

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e present new proper motion measurements and simultaneous orbital solutions for three newly identified (S0-16, S0-19, and S0-20) and four previously known (S0-1, S0-2, S0-4, and S0-5) stars at the Galactic Center. This analysis pinpoints the Galaxy's central dark mass to within +-1 milli-arcsec and, for the first time from orbital dynamics, limits its proper motion to 1.5+-0.5 mas/y, which is consistent with our derivation of the position of Sgr A* in the infrared reference frame (+-10 mas). The estimated central dark mass from orbital motions is 3.7 (+-0.2) x 10^6 (Ro/8kpc)^3 Mo; this is a more direct measure of mass than those obtained froam velocity dispersion measurements, which are as much as a factor of two smaller. The smallest closest approach is achieved by S0-16, which confines the mass to within a radius of a mere 45 AU and increases the inferred dark mass density by four orders of magnitude compared to earlier analyses based on velocity and acceleration vectors, making the Milky Way the strongest existing case by far for a supermassive black hole at the center of any normal type galaxy. The stellar orbital properties suggest that the distributions of eccentricities and angular momentum vector and apoapse directions are consistent with those of an isotropic system. Therefore many of the mechanisms proposed for the formation of young stars in the vicinity of a supermassive black hole, such as formation from a pre-existing disk, are unlikely solutions for the Sgr A* cluster stars. Unfortunately, all existing alternative theories are also somewhat problematic. Understanding the apparent youth of stars in the Sgr A* cluster, as well as the more distant He I emission line stars, has now become one of the major outstanding issues in the study of the Galactic Center.

This article was published in Astrophys.J and referenced in Journal of Astrophysics & Aerospace Technology

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