A Caltech Library Service

A Disk of Young Stars at the Galactic Center as Determined by Individual Stellar Orbits

Lu, J. R. and Ghez, A. M. and Hornstein, S. D. and Morris, M. R. and Becklin, E. E. and Matthews, K. (2009) A Disk of Young Stars at the Galactic Center as Determined by Individual Stellar Orbits. Astrophysical Journal, 690 (2). pp. 1463-1487. ISSN 0004-637X.

PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


We present new proper motions from the 10 m Keck telescopes for a puzzling population of massive, young stars located within 3".5 (0.14 pc) of the supermassive black hole at the Galactic center. Our proper motion measurements have uncertainties of only 0.07 mas yr^–1 (3 km s^–1), which is ≳ 7 times better than previous proper motion measurements for these stars, and enables us to measure accelerations as low as 0.2 mas yr^–2 (7 km s^–1 yr^–1). Using these measurements, line-of-sight velocities from the literature, and three-dimensional velocities for additional young stars in the central parsec, we constrain the true orbit of each individual star and directly test the hypothesis that the massive stars reside in two stellar disks as has been previously proposed. Analysis of the stellar orbits reveals only one of the previously proposed disks of young stars using a method that is capable of detecting disks containing at least seven stars. The detected disk contains 50% of the young stars, is inclined by ~115° from the plane of the sky, and is oriented at a position angle of ~100° east of north. Additionally, the on-disk and off-disk populations have similar K-band luminosity functions and radial distributions that decrease at larger radii as ∝ r^–2. The disk has an out-of-the-disk velocity dispersion of 28 ± 6 km s–1, which corresponds to a half-opening angle of 7° ± 2°, and several candidate disk members have eccentricities greater than 0.2. Our findings suggest that the young stars may have formed in situ but in a more complex geometry than a simple, thin circular disk.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Lu, J. R.0000-0001-9611-0009
Ghez, A. M.0000-0003-3230-5055
Morris, M. R.0000-0002-6753-2066
Additional Information:© 2009. The American Astronomical Society. Received 2008 June 9; accepted 2008 August 27; published 2008 December 22. Print publication: Issue 2 (2009 January 10). Support for this work was provided by NSF grant AST-0406816, and the NSF Science & Technology Center for AO, managed by UCSC (AST-9876783). Additional support for J.R.L. was provided by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. We would like to thank Brad Hansen and the anonymous referee for helpful comments. The W.M. Keck Observatory is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W.M. Keck Foundation. Facilities: Keck:II (NIRC2), Keck:I (NIRC)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
W. M. Keck FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:black hole physics; Galaxy: center; infrared: stars; techniques: high angular resolution
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:LUJapj09
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:12822
Deposited By: Archive Administrator
Deposited On:30 Dec 2008 00:34
Last Modified:04 Nov 2019 02:41

Repository Staff Only: item control page