Scientists at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan recently created a new map of the Milky Way galaxy. The map of the galaxy found that the Earth is 2000 light-years closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy than previously believed. Researchers also found that the Earth is orbiting the black hole faster than previous estimates.
In 1985, the International Astronomical Union announced that Earth was 27,700 light-years from the black hole in the galaxy’s center, named Sagittarius A*. However, the Japanese researchers conducted a 15-year analysis using the radio astronomy project VERA and found that Earth is 25,800 light-years away.
The research also found the Earth is orbiting 7 km/s faster than was previously believed. Researchers are clear that the additional speed doesn’t mean the Earth is suddenly plunging headlong towards the black hole. Scientists say that the new findings simply give a better model of the Milky Way galaxy.
25,800 light-years is still a distance so far that it’s hard to wrap the mind around. At that distance, it would take light 25,800 years to reach the black hole at the galactic center. Researchers using the VERA Astrometry Catalog created a position and velocity map laying out the center of the Milky Way galaxy and objects inside the galaxy. The first astrometry catalogs was published this year with data for 99 objects.
Positioning indicates the Earth orbits the Galactic Center, where the black hole resides, at 227 km/s. Scientists initially believed the orbit was at a speed of 220 km/s. VERA stands for Very Long Baseline Interferometry Exploration of Radio Astronomy, and the project started in 2000 using interferometry to aggregate data from other radio telescopes in Japan.