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  1. Schmidt, Dirk ; Schreiber, Laura ; Vernet, Elise (Ed.)
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 29, 2023
  2. Schmidt, Dirk ; Schreiber, Laura ; Vernet, Elise (Ed.)
    We present evaluations of the Keck Telescope’s adaptive optics (AO) performance on Milky Way Galactic center imaging and spectroscopic observations using three different AO setups: laser guide star with infrared (IR) tip-tilt correction, laser guide star with visible tip-tilt correction, and infrared natural guide star with a pyramid wavefront sensor. Observations of the Galactic Center can utilize a bright IR tip-tilt star (K′ = 7.4 mag) for corrections, which is over 10 arcseconds closer than the optical tip-tilt star. The proximity of this IR star enables the comparison of the aforementioned AO configurations. We present performance metrics such as full-width-at-half-maximum (FWHM), Strehl ratio, and spectral signal to noise ratio and their relations to atmospheric seeing conditions. The IR tip-tilt star decreases the median spatial FWHM by 31% in imaging data and 30% in spectroscopy. Median Strehl for imaging data improves by 24%. Additionally, the IR star removes the seeing dependence from differential tip-tilt error in both imaging and spectroscopic data. This evaluation provides important work for ongoing upgrades to AO systems, such as the Keck All sky Precision Adaptive Optics (KAPA) upgrade on the Keck I Telescope, and the development of new AO systems for extremely large telescopes.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 7, 2023
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  4. As the closest example of a galactic nucleus, the Galactic center (GC) presents an exquisite laboratory for learning about supermassive black holes (SMBH) and their environment. We describe several exciting new research directions that, over the next 10 years, 1 arXiv:1903.05293v1 [astro-ph.GA] 13 Mar 2019 hold the potential to answer some of the biggest scientific questions raised in recent decades: Is General Relativity (GR) the correct description for supermassive black holes? What is the nature of star formation in extreme environments? How do stars and compact objects dynamically interact with the supermassive black hole? What physical processes drive gas accretion in low-luminosity black holes? We describe how the high sensitivity, angular resolution, and astrometric precision offered by the next generation of large ground-based telescopes with adaptive optics will help us answer these questions. First, it will be possible to obtain precision measurements of stellar orbits in the Galaxy’s central potential, providing both tests of GR in the unexplored regime near a SMBH and measurements of the extended dark matter distribution that is predicted to exist at the GC. The orbits of these stars will also allow us to measure the spin of the SMBH. Second, we will probe stellar populationsmore »at the GC to significantly lower masses than are possible today, down to the brown dwarf limit. Their structure and dynamics will provide an unprecedented view of the stellar cusp around the SMBH and will distinguish between models of star formation in the extreme environment of galactic nuclei. This increase in depth will also allow us to measure the currently unknown population of compact remnants at the GC by observing their effects on luminous sources. Third, uncertainties on the mass of and distance to the SMBH can be improved by a factor of ∼10. Finally, we can also study the near-infrared accretion onto the black hole at unprecedented sensitivity and time resolution, which can reveal the underlying physics of black hole accretion.« less
  5. The general theory of relativity predicts that a star passing close to a supermassive black hole should exhibit a relativistic redshift. In this study, we used observations of the Galactic Center star S0-2 to test this prediction. We combined existing spectroscopic and astrometric measurements from 1995–2017, which cover S0-2’s 16-year orbit, with measurements from March to September 2018, which cover three events during S0-2’s closest approach to the black hole. We detected a combination of special relativistic and gravitational redshift, quantified using the redshift parameter ϒ. Our result, ϒ = 0.88 ± 0.17, is consistent with general relativity (ϒ = 1) and excludes a Newtonian model (ϒ = 0) with a statistical significance of 5σ.