Data reveals Earth closer to a black hole and is moving 16,000 mph faster
According to a study, our planet is significantly closer to the supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy than previously believed.
According to a Japanese radio astronomy project, Earth is 2,000 light years closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The data also showed the planet is moving at 7 km/s or 16,000 mph faster in orbit around the Galactic Center. The findings do not imply that Earth is in more danger from the black hole, but rather reflect improved galaxy modeling.
If you think things on Earth aren’t going well enough, it turns out that our planet is far closer to the supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy than we thought. Researchers were able to improve their modeling of the Milky Way Galaxy by using new observation data, which revealed that Earth is moving 7 km/s (16,000 mph) faster and is 2,000 light years closer to the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*.
The more exact data came from 15 years of data collected by the Japanese radio astronomy project VERA, which stands for VLBI Exploration of Radio Astrometry (with “VLBI” standing for Very Long Baseline Interferometry). The research began in 2000 with the purpose of mapping the three-dimensional velocity and spatial structures of the Milky Way.
VERA employs interferometry to pull together and combine data from radio telescopes all over the Japanese archipelago. This approach enables the project to achieve astonishing resolution, comparable to that of a 2300 km diameter telescope. The measurement is so accurate at this precise resolution of 10 micro-arcseconds, that it would be sufficiently sharp to pick out a U.S. penny if it was somehow left on the Moon’s surface.
The VERA Astrometry Catalog and recent discoveries by other researchers enabled the scientists to create a position and velocity map of the Galaxy with a new center. It’s the pivot around which the entire Galaxy revolves.
Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines indicate the positions of the Galaxy’s spiral arms. The colors represent groups of objects from the same arm, while the background is a simulation image. Credit: NAOJ
According to the new map, this center, together with the supermassive black hole it contains, is around 25,800 light-years away from Earth. Notably, this is closer than the International Astronomical Union’s official distance of 27,700 light years published in 1985.
The velocity component of the new image also differentiated the planet’s velocity, revealing that it travels at 227 km/s in its orbit around the Galactic Center. That’s 7 kilometers per hour quicker than the previous “official” speed of 220 kilometers per hour.
VERA then turns its attention to other objects, particularly those near the galaxy’s supermassive black hole.