SC23 Proceedings

The International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis

Scientific Visualization & Data Analytics Showcase Archive

A Journey to the Center of the Milky Way: Stellar Orbits around Its Central Black Hole


Authors: Kalina M. Borkiewicz (National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Illinois); Stuart Levy (National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)); Jeff Carpenter, Eric Jensen, Bradley Thompson, and Eli Joteva (National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Illinois); Jill P. Naiman (University of Illinois); Mark Van Moer (National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Illinois); and Andrea Ghez, Matthew Hosek, Abhimat K. Gautam, and Kelly Kosmo O'Neil (University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA))

Abstract: The Advanced Visualization Lab at the NCSA created a cinematic scientific visualization showing a flight through the Milky Way galaxy, to the galactic center where stars are orbiting around a supermassive black hole. The tour summarizes results from Andrea Ghez's Galactic Center Group: their study of the motions of stars around the Milky Way's central black hole reveals a rich and surprising environment, with hot young stars (coded as purple) where few were expected to be, many orbiting in a common plane; a paucity of cooler old stars (yellow); a population of unexpected "G-object" dusty stars (red); and an eclipsing binary star (teal). The black hole itself, shrouded in mystery, is seen only as a tiny faint twinkling radio source. But the movement of these nearby stars, especially the S0-2 "hero" (pale blue ellipse), probe the black hole's gravity, exposing its massive presence.

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