The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way is 2,000 light-years closer than known

A map of the positions and velocities of 224 objects in the Galaxy, with the velocities of each object marked by arrows and colors used to show the difference in the spiral arms of the objects.

A new map of the Milky Way galaxy, completed by Japanese space experts, has found that the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way is 2,000 light-years closer to Earth than scientists previously thought.

At the very center of the Milky Way lies A supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A (Sgr A*), with A mass 4.2 million times that of the sun. The map, released by Japan’s National Observatory, shows the black hole at a distance of 25,800 light-years from Earth. The current astronomical figure, provided by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1985, is 27,700 light years.

The latest data also show that our solar system is orbiting the center of the Milky Way at 227 kilometers per second, also faster than previously thought at 220 kilometers per second.

The data were obtained by analyzing more than 15 years of data from the Japanese astronomy project, The Long Baseline Interferometer Radio Astronomy Exploration (VERA). The project uses interferometer technology, which combines data from radio telescopes across Japan to achieve an accuracy comparable to that achieved by a 2,300-kilometer diameter telescope.

The project’s data could be accurate enough to identify a penny on the moon’s surface, the study said.

The Milky Way cannot be observed from the outside because the Earth is inside the Milky Way. Therefore, the correct astronomical measurement of the position of each celestial body in the Milky Way is an important tool to understand the structure of the Milky Way. This year, VERA’s latest figures include the positions of 99 objects.

The massive gravitational field of the supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy affects the orbits of stars in the central region of our galaxy. Astronomers know that there are several types of black holes and that many galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center.

Now astronomers think that such black holes at the center of galaxies may have something to do with their formation. But scientists don’t know exactly what role these black holes play in the evolution of galaxies, or in what order they were born.

In the future, VERA plans to work with more telescopes around the world to see more objects, especially those near the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, at greater distances between individual telescopes and with greater accuracy, in order to better explore the way the Milky Way works.

The first findings of VERA’s plan are published in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan in August 2020.