Earth is 16,000 miles per hour faster, 2,000 light years closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way

Map of the location and speed of the Milky Way. The arrows show the position and velocity data for 224 objects that have been used to model the Milky Way. The solid black lines show the positions of the arms of the spiral galaxy. Colors refer to groups of things belonging to the same arm. The background is a simulated image. Credit: NAOJ

Earth has just achieved a speed of 7 km / s (16,000 mph) and is close to 2,000 light years from the colossal mass Black hole in the middle Milky Way The galaxy. But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean our planet is heading towards a black hole. Instead, the changes are the result of a better model of the Milky Way based on new observational data, including a catalog of objects observed over more than 15 years by the Japanese Radio Astronomy Project VERA.

VERA (VLBI Radio Astronomy Exploration, by the way “VLBI” stands for Very Long Basic Interferometry) that began in the year 2000 to map 3D velocity and spatial structures in the Milky Way. VERA uses a technology known as interferometry to combine data from radio telescopes dotted across the Japanese archipelago in order to achieve the same accuracy as a telescope with a diameter of 2,300 km. Measurement Health Achieved with this resolution, 10 microseconds arcseconds, sharp enough in theory to dissolve a US cent on the surface of the Moon.

Because Earth is located inside the Milky Way, we cannot step back and see what the galaxy looks like from the outside. Astronomy, an accurate measurement of the positions and movements of objects, is a vital tool for understanding the general structure of the galaxy and our place in it. This year, the first VERA Astrometry catalog containing data on 99 organisms was published.

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Based on the VERA Astrometry catalog and recent observations by other groups, astronomers have created a map of location and velocity. From this map they calculated the center of the galaxy, the point around which everything revolves. The map indicates that the center of the galaxy and the supermassive black hole located there are 25,800 light-years from Earth. This is closer to the official value of 27,700 light-years that was adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1985. The velocity component of the map indicates that the Earth is moving at 227 km / s as it orbits around the center of the galaxy. This is faster than the official value of 220 km / s.

Vera now hopes to observe more objects, especially those near the central supermassive black hole, to better describe the structure and motion of the galaxy. As part of these efforts, VERA will participate in the EAVN (East Asia Network VLBI) consisting of a radio telescope located in Japan, South Korea and China. By increasing the number of telescopes and the maximum separation of telescopes, EAVN can achieve higher resolution.

“First VERA Astrometry Catalog” in collaboration with VERA et al. It appeared in the publications of the Japanese Astronomical Society in August 2020.

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