The UCLA Galactic Center Group—led by principal investigator and professor of astronomy Andrea Ghez—is dedicated to researching the innermost regions of the Milky Way at the highest angular resolution possible in order to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies and their central supermassive black holes. Over the past two decades, dramatic advances in imaging technology have led to order-of-magnitude improvements in spatial detail, and the UCLA Galactic Center Group has been consistently at the forefront of these advances with the Keck telescopes.
One of the most important early outcomes of this work was the co-discovery of the presence of a supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy. This was done by tracking the motions of stars. The rapidity with which these stars move on small-scale orbits indicates a source of tremendous gravity and provides the best evidence that supermassive black holes, which confront and challenge our knowledge of fundamental physics, do exist in the Universe. In other studies of the Galactic center, they have shown that what happens near a supermassive back hole is quite different than what theoretical models have predicted, which changes many of our notions on how galaxies form and evolve over time.
Currently, UCLA's Galactic Center group efforts are focused on