Earth is 2,000 light-years closer to a supermassive black than thought

Earth is 2,000 light-years closer to a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy than first thought

  • Japan’s space agency has created a new map of the Milky Way
  • The team has been collecting data for the past 15 years, revealing new insights  
  • Earth is only 25,800 light years away from a supermassive black hole
  • A previous analysis from 1985 suggested it is  27,700 light years away
  • The team also found Earth is moving 141 miles per second faster in orbit 

Earth is closer to a supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy that previously believed, new data reveals.

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) found our planet is 2,000 light years closer to Sagittarius A.

The initial analysis projected Earth was initially 27,700 light years away, but it is only 25,800 light years away.

Along with being closer to the black hole, the new data shows Earth is orbiting the Galactic Center of the Milky Way 141 miles per second faster. 

Although the findings may spark fear around the world, the results are due to new observation data that created a better model of our galaxy.

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) found our planet is 2,000 light years closer to Sagittarius A. The initial analysis projected Earth was initially 27,700 light years away, but now it is only 25,800 light years away. Pictured is a new position and velocity map of the Milky Way

The first projection was captured in 1985 by the International Astronomical Union, but the Japanese radio astronomy project VERA has been probing the distance and speed for 15 years to create an up-to-date model.

VERA is comprised of radio telescopes across Japan, allowing astronomers to collect data similar to that of a 1,430 diameter satellite dish.

It launched in 2000 with the task of calculating the distance to radio-emitting stars by analyzing their parallax.

‘Because Earth is located inside the Milky Way Galaxy, we can’t step back and see what the Galaxy looks like from the outside,’ NAOJ shared in a statement.

The team calculated the center of the Galaxy, the point that everything revolves around, to start the map. Once it was complete, they were able to determine the center of the Galaxy, which is home to Sagittarius A, is located 25,800 light-years from Earth 

‘Astrometry, accurate measurement of the positions and motions of objects, is a vital tool to understand the overall structure of the Galaxy and our place in it. 

‘This year, the First VERA Astrometry Catalog was published containing data for 99 objects. ‘

Based on the VERA Astrometry Catalog and recent observations by other groups, astronomers constructed a position and velocity map. 

The team calculated the center of the Galaxy, the point that everything revolves around, to start the map.

Once it was complete, they were able to determine the center of the Galaxy, which is home to Sagittarius A, is located 25,800 light-years from Earth.

The velocity component of the map indicates that Earth is travelling at 141 miles per second as it orbits around the Galactic Center. 

This is faster than the previous value of 136 miles per hour. 

WHAT IS THE SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE SAGITTARIUS A*

The Galactic centre of the Milky Way is dominated by one resident, the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*).

Supermassive black holes are incredibly dense areas in the centre of galaxies with masses that can be billions of times that of the sun.

They act as intense sources of gravity which hoover up dust and gas around them. 

Evidence of a black hole at the centre of our galaxy was first presented by physicist Karl Jansky in 1931, when he discovered radio waves coming from the region. 

Pre-eminent yet invisible, Sgr A* has the mass equivalent to some four million suns.  

At just 26,000 light years from Earth, Sgr A* is one of very few black holes in the universe where we can actually witness the flow of matter nearby.

Less than one per cent of the material initially within the black hole’s gravitational influence reaches the event horizon, or point of no return, because much of it is ejected. 

Consequently, the X-ray emission from material near Sgr A* is remarkably faint, like that of most of the giant black holes in galaxies in the nearby universe.

The captured material needs to lose heat and angular momentum before being able to plunge into the black hole. The ejection of matter allows this loss to occur.

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