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Stars orbiting the supermassive black hole in our Galactic Center provide a test of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity

In this paper, we perform a test of General Relativity using short-period stars like S0-2, which orbits the black hole at the center of our Galaxy with a period of 16 years and which will reach speeds of several percent of the speed of light at its point of closest approach in 2018. This analysis, the first one of this kind, opens a new window to study gravitation using orbital dynamics in a strong gravitational field around a supermassive black hole. Testing General Relativity is important to search for a quantum theory of gravity and for a theory that would unify all fundamental interactions and to improve our understanding of dark matter and dark energy. In this Letter, we constrain the presence of a fifth force which appears in several modified theories of gravitation by using 20 years of observations at the Keck observatory. As the orbital determinations presented here are refined with continued observations in the near future, the constraints on gravitational theory and stellar dynamics in the Galactic center are expected to undergo substantial improvements.

Professor Ghez Receives the Sven Berggren Prize for 2017

Professor Andrea Ghez, the Director of the Galactic Center Group, will be awarded the 2017 Sven Berggren Prize, the Royal Physiographic Society's prize lecture in Lund, Sweden.

Constraining the Black Hole Parameters using S0-2 and S0-38

Our work on characterizing the Milky Way black hole using multiple stars, which was spearheaded by Anna Boehle, UCLA graduate student, was published recently. Using a more sophisticated speckle reconstruction technique called speckle holography, we were able to extract the positional information from the speckle data from 1995-2013 for the star S0-38. Combining this data with those of S0-2, the improved constraints for the mass and distance of the black hole were estimated. The paper can be found here.

Jerry Magnin Appointed as the Vice Chairman of the Galactic Center Board of Advisors

The UCLA Galactic Center Group Board of Advisors has appointed board member Jerry A. Magnin as vice chairman. In his new role, Magnin will contribute his considerable corporate and fundraising expertise to garner major philanthropic support for one of the most highly respected infrared astronomy research groups in the world. Read more...

*New* Aspen Winter Conference Feb. 7-12, 2016

The time is now ripe to collect the broader community of experts on galactic nuclei generally and the Galactic Center specifically to share and build upon this recent progress in our understanding of the role played by and dynamical processes near Massive Black Holes. Important dates are: September 15 2015: Online application opens;   November 15 2016: Application deadline

Andrea Ghez to receive Royal Society's Bakerian Medal

Professor Andrea Ghez will be awarded the 2015 Bakerian Medal, the Royal Society’s premiere prize lecture in the physical sciences, the organization announced today. “I’m thrilled to receive the Bakerian Medal from the Royal Society,” said Ghez, who is UCLA’s Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics. “The research that is being recognized is the product of a wonderful collaboration among the scientists in the UCLA Galactic Center Group and the University of California’s tremendous investment in the W.M. Keck Observatory. Having cutting-edge tools and a great team makes discovery easy.” Read more at Keck Observatory Cosmic Matters.

Smadar Naoz awarded astronomy’s Annie Jump Cannon Prize for outstanding research

Smadar Naoz, assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy, was selected to receive the prestigious 2015 American Astronomical Society Annie Jump Cannon Prize for outstanding research and the promise for future exceptional research. Her research has explained the surprising observations of many hot Jupiters with orbits that are eccentric or inclined relative to the equator of their host star. Naoz provided the first complete and accurate treatment of the dynamics of such a system, the citation noted. Read more at UCLA News Release Page

G2 - Bizarre object in our Galactic Center Explained (2014-11-07)

For years, astronomers have been puzzled by G2, a bizarre object in the center of the Milky Way that was believed to be a hydrogen gas cloud headed toward our galxy's enormous black hole. The Galactic Center Group members have determined that G2 is most likely a pair of binary stars that had been orbiting the black hole in tandem and merged together into an extremely large star, embedded in gas and dust, its movements choreographed by the black hole's powerful gravitational field. Read more at UCLA News Release Page

Evidence of Jet in Milky Way's Black Hole (2013-11-20)

Former UCLA assistant researcher Zhiyuan Li and Professor Mark Morris led a team which found evidence for a parsec-scale jet from the galactic center black hole with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope. Read more at UCLA News Release Page

Mission to Build the Thirty Meter Telescope (2013-08-01)

A major milestone has been reached for building the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). The UC President and several international partners have signed the agreement. UCLA astronomers will play a significant role in the development and use of the TMT, which will be located in Hawaii and slated ot start in 2022 for the scientific operations. Read more at UCLA News Release Page

Discovery of the Star with the Shortest Known Orbit around Our Black Hole (2012-10-04)

The Galactic Center Group discovered a star orbiting the supermassive back hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy with the shortest known orbital period of 11.5 years! Such stars, with their complete orbits observed, can not only provide a means for determining black hole mass but also be used to test general relativity. Read more at UCLA News Release Page