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GALACTICNUCLEUS Report Summary

Project ID: 614922
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Spain

Mid-Term Report Summary - GALACTICNUCLEUS (The Fingerprint of a Galactic Nucleus: A Multi-Wavelength, High-Angular Resolution, Near-Infrared Study of the Centre of the Milky Way)

The centre of the Milky Way contains a massive black hole and a stellar nucleus and is orders of magnitude closer than any comparable target. It is the only galactic nucleus and the most extreme astrophysical environment in which we can study individual stars, their properties, their distribution, and their interaction with the central black hole. It is therefore a crucial laboratory for studying galactic nuclei and their role in the context of galaxy evolution. Yet, detailed and sensitive data to explore its stellar population exist for less than 1% of its projected area. Moreover, the well-explored regions are extraordinary, like the central parsec around the massive black hole, and therefore probably not representative for the overall environment. This project aims at providing a global and at the same time detailed picture of the stellar nucleus of the Milky Way through accurate, high-angular resolution, multi-wavelength near-infrared photometry for an area of several 100 square parsecs, at least ten times larger than what has been done up to date. This survey is made possible because of an unconventional observational methodology, which uses a novel implementation of the so called speckle imaging method, which consists of taking series of short exposures through the Earth's turbulent atmosphere and then reconstructing sharp images a posteriori with numerical algorithms. This method works with a large range of terrestrial instruments and telescopes, but delivers images that can compete in quality with the Hubble Space Telescope. The project is well under way and is supported by a so-called Large Programme of the European Southern Obsrvatory, which has allocated 160 hours of telescope times at one of their 8m VLT telescopes for our observations. Most scientific results from this project are expected for its second half. So far, among others, we have provided new, accurate global measurements of the so-called nuclear star cluster that surrounds the central black hole. With 25 million solar masses it is about eight times more massive than the black hole. However, with a size that is not larger than the ones of normal globular clusters in the Milky Way's outer halo, the nuclear star cluster is the densest stellar system in our entire Galaxy. Close to the central black hole, the density of stars is more than ten million times higher than in the neighbourhood of the Solar system.

Contact

Guillermo Sanjuanbenito Garcia
Tel.: +34 91 568 15 28
Fax: +34 91 568 15 09
E-mail
Record Number: 191577 / Last updated on: 2016-11-21
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