We can only predict star motion in the Milky Way’s heart for 462 years


The centre of the Milky Way is surprisingly chaotic

Guillem Lopez Borras/Alamy

Near the centre of the galaxy, chaos rules. The stars that orbit close to the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole, called S-stars, are so chaotic that our best simulations of their motions fall apart in just 462 years, making it impossible to predict their locations after that.

Traditionally, it has been difficult to calculate the motions of many objects orbiting near one another because of ever-present rounding errors; long decimals involved in the calculations must be cut off somewhere, which …


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