Earth at 16,000 mph, 2000 light years closer to the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way

Milky Way Galaxy Position and Velocity Map

Map of the position and velocity of the Milky Way galaxy. The arrows show the position and velocity data for 224 objects used to model the Milky Way galaxy. Solid black lines show the positions of the spinning arms of the galaxy. Colors represent groups of objects that belong to the same hand. The background is a simulation image. Credit: NAOJ

Earth reached a speed of 7 km / h (~ 16,000 mi), close to the miracle of 2000 light years Black hole In the center Milky Way Galaxy. But don’t worry, this does not mean that our planet is moving towards the black hole. Instead, the changes are the result of a better model of the Milky Way galaxy based on new observational data, including a list of objects observed for more than 15 years by the Japanese radio astronomical program VERA.

VERA (Radio Astrometry’s VLBI Study, “VLBI” stands for Longest Baseline Interferometry) was launched in 2000 to map three-dimensional velocity and spatial structures in the Milky Way. VERA uses a technique called interferometry to combine data from radio telescopes scattered throughout the Japanese island to achieve the same resolution as a telescope with a diameter of 2300 km. Calibration Accuracy The 10 micro-arcs achieved by this resolution are theoretically sharp enough to solve a United States penny placed on the surface of the moon.

Since the Earth is located inside the Milky Way galaxy, we cannot retreat and see what the galaxy looks like from outside. Astronomy, the accurate measurement of the positions and motions of objects, is an important tool for understanding the overall structure of the galaxy and our place in it. This year, the first Vera Astrometry list was released with data for 99 objects.

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Based on the VERA astrometry list and recent observations from other groups, astronomers developed a position and velocity map. From this map they calculated the center of the galaxy, which orbits everything. The map shows that the center of the galaxy and the marvelous black planet that inhabits it are located 25,800 light-years from Earth. This is closer to the official value of 27700 light years accepted by the International Astronomical Union in 1985. The velocity component of the map indicates that the Earth is traveling at a speed of 227 km / h as it orbits the galaxy. It is faster than the official value of 220 km / sec.

To better classify the structure and motion of the galaxy, VERA now hopes to observe more objects, especially those closer to the central wonder black hole. As part of this effort, Vera will participate in the EAVN (East Asian VLPI Network) with radio telescopes located in Japan, South Korea and China. By increasing the number of telescopes and maximizing the spacing between telescopes, EAVN can achieve even greater accuracy.

“First VERA Astrometry Catalog” by VERA Collaboration and others. Appeared in August 2020 in publications of the Japan Astronomical Society.

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Cary Douglas

About the Author: Cary Douglas

Wayne Ma is a reporter who covers everything from oil trading to China's biggest conglomerates and technology companies. Originally from Chicago, he is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

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