Earth Is 2,000 Light-Years Closer to Milky Way's Black Hole

A group of researchers from Japan's VERA project re-calculated the speed and location of the Earth.
Chris Young

At the center of the Milky Way galaxy is a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A* that has a mass approximately 4 million times that of our Sun.

New research shows that we are 2,000 light-years closer to Sagittarius A* than previously thought. What's more, Earth is also moving at a faster speed.


Black hole 'proximity'

Thankfully, none of this means we're in any danger of being crushed to atoms — we're not moving closer to Sagittarius A*, we now simply have a more accurate representation of our location in the Milky Way galaxy based on new data.

Over the last decade and a half, a Japanese radio astronomy project called VERA has been collecting data using a technique called interferometry, CNET reports. Data from telescopes across Japan was combined with data from other projects in order to create an accurate map of the Milky Way.

The project pinpointed the location and speed of around 99 specific points in our galaxy in order to calculate our location. The researchers concluded that the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* is, in fact, 25,800 light-years from Earth — almost 2,000 light-years closer than previously thought.

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Earth speed re-calculated

The new research also showed that Earth is moving faster than we previously thought. While older models said Earth was orbiting around the galaxy's center at 220 kilometers (136 miles) per second, VERA's new model says we are moving at 227 kilometers (141 miles) per second.

Next, the VERA project aims to improve the accuracy of its models by increasing the number of data points it uses for its calculations. The project researchers soon hope to include the EAVN (East Asian VLBI Network) as part of its data toolset, which would allow them to collect data from a larger fleet of telescopes from Japan, Korea, and China.