The map states that the center of the Milky Way and the black hole that sits there are 25,800 light-years from Earth. This is close to the official estimate of 27,700 light-years accepted by the International Astronomical Union in 1985, according to the National Laboratory of Japan.
What’s more, according to the map, our solar system orbits the galaxy at a speed of 227 kilometers per second – which is faster than the official value of 220 kilometers per second.
The updated values are the result of more than 15 years of observation by the Japanese radio astronomy program Vera, according to a statement released Thursday from Japan’s National Laboratory. Vera is small for the VLBI study of radio astrometry and represents the mission series of telescopes that use the longest baseline interferometry to explore the three-dimensional structure of the Milky Way.
In August, Vera released its first list, which contains data for 99 celestial objects. Based on this table and recent observations from other groups, astronomers developed a position and velocity map. From this map, scientists were able to calculate the center of the galaxy, the point at which everything revolves.
VERA integrates data from four radio telescopes across Japan. When combined, the telescopes were able to reach a resolution that, in theory, would allow astronomers to find an American penny placed on the surface of the moon, the lab said.
The scary and dream world of space
To be clear, the changes do not mean that the Earth is moving towards the black hole, the lab said. In contrast, the map identifies the location of the solar system more accurately.