3D Movie of Stellar Orbits in the Central Parsec
Stellar orbits that have revealed the existence of a supermassive
black hole that is 4 million times the mass of the sun and that lies at the center of the Galaxy ~25,000 light years away.
The Galactic center also plays host to an unexpected population of young, massive stars, whose orbits can provide insight
into their origin as well as the hostile environment surrounding a supermassive black hole.
The movie shows a 3-dimensional visualization of the stellar orbits in the Galactic center based on data obtained by
the W. M. Keck Telescopes between 1995 and 2012. Stars with the best determined orbits are shown with full ellipses and
trails behind each star span ~15-20 years. These stars are color-coded to represent their spectral type: Early-type (young) stars are shown in teal green,
late-type (old) stars are shown in orange, and those with unknown spectral type are shown in magenta.
Stars without ellipses are from a statistical sample and follow the observed radial distributions for the early
(white) or late (yellow/orange) type stars. These stars are embedded in a model representation of the inner Milky Way
provided by NCSA/AVL to provide context for the visualization.
The movie begins at the very center of the Galaxy, ~0.015 pc from the supermassive black hole, in the year 1893, and pulls away to a
distance of 0.2 pc as the movie reaches the year 2013, ending from the viewing angle of Earth.