David Aguilar
(617) 495-7462

Christine Pulliam
(617) 495-7463

pubaffairs@cfa


CfA Press Release
 

EXACT CENTER OF THE MILKY WAY FINALLY PINPOINTED WITHPRECISION

TORONTO, Ont.--The exact center of our Milky Waygalaxy, a point around which all stars including theSun rotate and which is hidden from optical view bydust between the stars, has finally been determinedby radio astronomers at the Smithsonian AstrophysicalObservatory (SAO) and their colleagues at Germany'sMax Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.

Pinpointing precisely the Milky Way's heart has beenan elusive goal of astronomers for more than 50 years,especially after radio observations revealed anextremely bright, point-like source near the centerof the galaxy. This compact object, calledSagittarius A*, is now thought to be a massive blackhole.

By correlating observations of radio-emitting waterand silicon monoxide molecules, or masers, withrecently observed infrared stars surrounding thiscentral region, Karl Menten and Mark Reid of SAO andtheir collaborators have determined the position ofSagittarius A* to within 0.03 arcseconds, or lessthan the width of a penny placed at a distance ofabout 65 kilometers.

The new determination of the galactic center waspresented January 14 as paper 61.05, "Where is theGalactic Center," in the Session "Formation andStructure of the Milky Way," at the 189th Meeting ofthe American Astronomical Society, Toronto, Ontario.

Contact:Mark Reid: 617-495-7470

mreid@cfa.harvard.edu
or
Public Affairs (Megan Watzke): 617-495-7463
mwatzke@cfa.harvard.edu

 
 
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