Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2000 December 20
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Sgr A*: Fast Stars Near the Galactic Center
Credit: A. Eckart (U. Koeln) & R. Genzel (MPE-Garching), SHARP I, NTT, La Silla Obs., ESO

Explanation: Why are these stars moving so fast? Shown above is a time-lapse movie in infrared light detailing how stars in the central light-year of our Galaxy have moved over the past eight years. The yellow mark at the image center represents the location of a peculiar radio source named Sgr A*. If these fast stars are held to the Galactic Center by gravity, then the central object exerting this gravity must be both compact and massive. Analysis of the stellar motions indicates that over one million times the mass of our Sun is somehow confined to a region less than a fifth of a light-year across. Astronomers interpret these observations as strong evidence that the center of our Galaxy is home to a very massive black hole.

Tomorrow's picture: Solstice Season

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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& Michigan Tech. U.