Relativistic redshift of the star S0-2 orbiting the Galactic Center supermassive black hole

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Science  16 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6454, pp. 664-668
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav8137

Gravitational redshift in the Galactic Center

General relativity predicts that light emitted by an object in a strong gravitational field—for example, close to a black hole—should be shifted to longer wavelengths. This gravitational redshift does not exist in the Newtonian theory of gravity. Do et al. monitored the position and spectrum of the star S0-2 as it passed Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Around the closest part of S0-2's 16-year orbit, they detected the effect of gravitational redshift on its spectrum. These results are more consistent with general relativity than Newtonian gravity at the 5σ level.

Science, this issue p. 664


The general theory of relativity predicts that a star passing close to a supermassive black hole should exhibit a relativistic redshift. In this study, we used observations of the Galactic Center star S0-2 to test this prediction. We combined existing spectroscopic and astrometric measurements from 1995–2017, which cover S0-2’s 16-year orbit, with measurements from March to September 2018, which cover three events during S0-2’s closest approach to the black hole. We detected a combination of special relativistic and gravitational redshift, quantified using the redshift parameter ϒ. Our result, ϒ = 0.88 ± 0.17, is consistent with general relativity (ϒ = 1) and excludes a Newtonian model (ϒ = 0) with a statistical significance of 5σ.

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