This Star Moves at 8% of the Speed of Light
Scientists caught a glimpse of the fastest star in our galaxy zooming around a black hole.
In the severe conditions at middle of our galaxy, the Milky Way, scientists have identified the fastest star ever detected in our galaxy, the S4714, orbiting a black hole.
One prominent aspect about our galaxy’s center is the supermassive black hole, scientifically known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), which as large as about 4 million Suns. As a result, the black hole has hundreds of stars pulled tightly into its orbit, traveling exceedingly fast from the gravitational boost granted by this close adjacency.
On its journey, the S4714 can reach top speeds of up to 8% the speed of light — a jaw-dropping 24,000 kilometers per second, or 15,000 miles per second. This means that it can make one full lap of the Earth in just over 1.5 seconds.
Understanding ‘S Stars’
Scientists seem to have discovered a cluster of ‘S Stars’ including S4711, S4712, S4713, S4714, and S4715. These stars orbit Sgr A* in oval-like shape, with the black hole at one end. This discovery hints that there are an abundance of stars thats have orbits in close proximity to Sgr A*. After examining the orbits of these stars for decades, astronomers have been finally able to determine the mass of Sgr A*.
Furthermore, in the last 10 years or so, astronomers have also used this data to learn more about other black holes in our galaxy and check whether their theories and knowledge of black holes are accurate or not.
One of the brightest members of the ‘S Star’ cluster that orbits Sgr A* is known as S2. This star made news when it helped astronomers locate Sgr A* at the center of our galaxy.
At the time the star was discovered, it had the shortest detected orbital period out of any star during that time and was calculated to take nearly 16 years to complete a single orbit around Sgr A*.
Based on these calculations, scientists concluded that S2 was the fastest star in our galaxy. Since then, astronomers have knocked S2 off the throne for the fastest star numerous times with the discovery of S62 (9 year orbital period) and S4711 (7.6 year orbital period).
What Does This Mean For the Future?
Einstein’s theory of general relativity is an important concept in space research. The idea of this theory is that space and time are two aspects of spacetime.
Spacetime is curved in places where gravity, momentum, energy, and matter are present. The theory allows scientists to understand and locate black holes. Stars such as S2 from the cluster are are being used to test Einstein’s theory. Astronomers were able to support the theory by examining the way the light of S2 warps when it advances towards Sgr A* and from the way its orbit varies each time.
Using powerful telescopes and other state-of-the-art instruments, scientists may be able to put this theory to use and locate other stars. Astronomers believe that there may be stars with velocities and speeds that surpass that of S4714 hiding near Sgr A*.
Florian Peissker, a scientist researching these stars, firmly believes that super-fast stars will be found in the future using the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). Peissker stated that when completed in 2025, the ELT will be able to gather 13 times more light than the most advanced telescopes used today.
The future looks profoundly bright for astronomy. It’s pretty obvious that astronomy has made great strides in tackling the mysteries of our universe, from locating Sgr A* to understanding the universe’s origins. In the next 50 years or so, we can expect the rise of a new space age, where it will have returns to both scientific and engineering advancements in technology and research.