Volume 636, April 2020
|Number of page(s)||14|
|Section||Letters to the Editor|
|Published online||16 April 2020|
Letter to the Editor
Detection of the Schwarzschild precession in the orbit of the star S2 near the Galactic centre massive black hole
Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Giessenbachstraße 1, 85748 Garching, Germany
2 LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, Université PSL, CNRS, Sorbonne Université, Université de Paris, 5 Place Jules Janssen, 92195 Meudon, France
3 Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
4 1st Institute of Physics, University of Cologne, Zülpicher Straße 77, 50937 Cologne, Germany
5 Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IPAG, 38000 Grenoble, France
6 Universidade de Lisboa – Faculdade de Ciências, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal
7 Faculdade de Engenharia, Universidade do Porto, Rua Dr. Roberto Frias, 4200-465 Porto, Portugal
8 European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Straße 2, 85748 Garching, Germany
9 European Southern Observatory, Casilla 19001, Santiago 19, Chile
10 Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
11 Sterrewacht Leiden, Leiden University, Postbus 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
12 Departments of Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Le Conte Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
13 CENTRA – Centro de Astrofísica e Gravitação, IST, Universidade de Lisboa, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal
14 Department of Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences, JILA, University of Colorado, Duane Physics Bldg., 2000 Colorado Ave, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
15 CERN, 1 Espl. des Particules, Genève 23 1211, Switzerland
16 Department of Particle Physics & Astrophysics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel
17 Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HA, UK
Accepted: 4 March 2020
The star S2 orbiting the compact radio source Sgr A* is a precision probe of the gravitational field around the closest massive black hole (candidate). Over the last 2.7 decades we have monitored the star’s radial velocity and motion on the sky, mainly with the SINFONI and NACO adaptive optics (AO) instruments on the ESO VLT, and since 2017, with the four-telescope interferometric beam combiner instrument GRAVITY. In this Letter we report the first detection of the General Relativity (GR) Schwarzschild Precession (SP) in S2’s orbit. Owing to its highly elliptical orbit (e = 0.88), S2’s SP is mainly a kink between the pre-and post-pericentre directions of motion ≈±1 year around pericentre passage, relative to the corresponding Kepler orbit. The superb 2017−2019 astrometry of GRAVITY defines the pericentre passage and outgoing direction. The incoming direction is anchored by 118 NACO-AO measurements of S2’s position in the infrared reference frame, with an additional 75 direct measurements of the S2-Sgr A* separation during bright states (“flares”) of Sgr A*. Our 14-parameter model fits for the distance, central mass, the position and motion of the reference frame of the AO astrometry relative to the mass, the six parameters of the orbit, as well as a dimensionless parameter fSP for the SP (fSP = 0 for Newton and 1 for GR). From data up to the end of 2019 we robustly detect the SP of S2, δϕ ≈ 12′ per orbital period. From posterior fitting and MCMC Bayesian analysis with different weighting schemes and bootstrapping we find fSP = 1.10 ± 0.19. The S2 data are fully consistent with GR. Any extended mass inside S2’s orbit cannot exceed ≈0.1% of the central mass. Any compact third mass inside the central arcsecond must be less than about 1000 M⊙.
Key words: black hole physics / Galaxy: nucleus / gravitation / relativistic processes
GRAVITY is developed in a collaboration by the Max Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics, LESIA of Observatoire de Paris/Université PSL/CNRS/Sorbonne Université/Université de Paris and IPAG of Université Grenoble Alpes/CNRS, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, the University of Cologne, the CENTRA – Centro de Astrofisica e Gravitação, and the European Southern Observatory.
© GRAVITY Collaboration 2020
Open Access article, published by EDP Sciences, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Open Access funding provided by Max Planck Society.
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