First Science Results

A team of European astronomers has achieved a crucial milestone for testing Einstein's theory of general relativity with the closest supermassive black hole in the centre of our own galaxy. For the first time, the newly installed GRAVITY instrument has been used together with ESO's Very Large 8m Telescopes to observe a star orbiting the black hole on a period as short as 16 years. Both the target star and a reference star nearby show no signs of being binaries – making future measurements much less complex. The new observations show that the Galactic Centre is as ideal a laboratory as one can hope for.

The ideal black hole laboratory

June 21, 2016

A team of European astronomers has achieved a crucial milestone for testing Einstein's theory of general relativity with the closest supermassive black hole in the centre of our own galaxy. For the first time, the newly installed GRAVITY instrument has been used together with ESO's Very Large 8m Telescopes to observe a star orbiting the black hole on a period as short as 16 years. Both the target star and a reference star nearby show no signs of being binaries – making future measurements much less complex. The new observations show that the Galactic Centre is as ideal a laboratory as one can hope for.

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First GRAVITY observations of the bright binary star Theta Orion C with the VLT Unit Telescopes.<br />Background image: credit NASA, O’Dell and Wong (Rice University) Zoom Image
First GRAVITY observations of the bright binary star Theta Orion C with the VLT Unit Telescopes.
Background image: credit NASA, O’Dell and Wong (Rice University) [less]

Gravity Instrument

The Beam Combiner Instrument during installation into the VLTI laboratory. Zoom Image
The Beam Combiner Instrument during installation into the VLTI laboratory.
The Beam Combiner Instrument at Paranal Zoom Image
The Beam Combiner Instrument at Paranal

Videos for download

GRAVITY

Credit: ESO/H.H.Heyer
Credit: ESO/H.H.Heyer

GRAVITY is the second-generation VLTI instrument for precision narrow-angle astrometry and interferometric imaging. It will bring the most advanced vision to the VLT: with its fiber-fed integrated optics, wavefront sensors, fringe tracker, beam stabilization, and a novel metrology concept, GRAVITY will push the sensitivity and accuracy far beyond what is offered today. Providing precision astrometry of order ten microarcseconds, and imaging with four milliarcsecond resolution, GRAVITY will revolutionize dynamical measurements of celestial objects: it will probe physics close to the event horizon of the Galactic Center black hole, unambiguously detect and measure the mass of black holes in massive star clusters throughout the Milky Way, uncover the details of mass –accretion and jets in young stellar objects and active galactic nuclei, and probe the motion of binary stars, exoplanets and young stellar disks.

Partners

GRAVITY is being built by the following institutes:

    

            

 
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