Even though a direct test of whether the black hole allegedly located at the centre of the Milky Way is a wormhole might not be possible – both now and, possibly, even in the distant future – physicists have certain tools in their toolbox which could help us make at least a fairly good estimate.
According to a new study published in the journal Physical Review D, one way to do so would be to measure if any of the stars orbiting the black hole, such as the one called S2, are displaying the tell-tale signs of being affected by the gravitational pull of objects located on the other side.
“If astronomers just measure the orbit of S2 with higher precision so that we can narrow it down”, said co-author Dejan Stojkovic from the University of Buffalo, “that’s it. That’s huge”.
Although, thanks to two decades of observation, astronomers are currently able to clock the acceleration of S2 with four-decimal-place accuracy, it would have to improve 100-fold before physicists can detect any potential swerves it makes along its orbit around Sagittarius (Sag) A (the hypothesised black hole at the centre of our galaxy).
Daunting as that may seem, Stojkovic believes that another two-or-so decades of data collection might naturally lead to just such an outcome.
While some physicists aware of the new paper argue that calculations provided therein might not tell us all that much even in the unlikely event of detecting a bona fide anomaly – and Stojkovic is well-aware of the odds working against his proposal – why not simply keep collecting more data and wait with an open mind?
“If one wormhole is found, then there is no reason to believe that there aren’t many others,” he says. “When we found the first candidate for a black hole, then suddenly we saw millions of them.”