Proof That Supermassive Black Holes Exist
Astrophysicists have long taken the theory of there being a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy as fact, but it wasn’t until more recently that it could be proven. It was very difficult to find evidence of the enormous black hole known as Sagittarius A because of the extremely clustered stars at the galaxy’s core. We simply lacked the technology to see clearly enough to do it.
As technology developed, Andrea Ghez and Reinhard Genzel started mapping the individual orbits of stars moving around the black hole around 2000. From these orbits, they could tell that the hidden object’s mass was incredibly large, yet it had such a small size that there was no other explanation. This proved that, in the center of the galaxy, there was a supermassive black hole.
Previously, nobody thought it could be achieved. We simply lacked the technology to see clearly enough to do it. The two researchers worked with engineers to create the groundbreaking technique of using adaptive optics. These optics could increase the abilities of the biggest telescopes on Earth, enabling them to observe a series of stars that circle closely around the center of our galaxy.
For their work in astrophysics, Ghez and Genzel were awarded the 2020 Nobel prize in physics. The shared the prize between them. The colleagues were the first to provide proof of the existence of supermassive black holes. These black holes have masses of over 100,000 times our sun’s mass.