First Science Results

Observations of the Galactic Centre team at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) have for the first time revealed the effects predicted by Einstein’s general relativity on the motion of a star passing through the extreme gravitational field near the supermassive black hole in the centre of the Milky Way. This long-sought result represents the climax of a 26-year-long observation campaign using ESO’s telescopes in Chile.

Testing GR Near Massive Black Hole

July 26, 2018

Observations of the Galactic Centre team at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) have for the first time revealed the effects predicted by Einstein’s general relativity on the motion of a star passing through the extreme gravitational field near the supermassive black hole in the centre of the Milky Way. This long-sought result represents the climax of a 26-year-long observation campaign using ESO’s telescopes in Chile. [more]
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 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.

[more]

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GRAVITY

Credit: ESO/H.H.Heyer Zoom Image
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.

GRAVITY News

Press release: First Successful Test of Einstein’s General Relativity Near Supermassive Black Hole

Press release: First Galactic Center Observations

GRAVITY had First Light in January 2016

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

Animation of the path an incoming light ray traces through the GRAVITY instrument. Note the intricate design and complex interaction of the various components for the four telescopes. For interferometry to work, the light paths have to be superposed with a precision of a fraction of the wavelength – less than 1 micrometre.

Partners

GRAVITY is being built by the following institutes:

    

            

 
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