The Galactic Centre is a crowded stellar field and frequent unrecognized events of source confusion, which involve undetected faint stars, are expected to introduce astrometric noise on a sub-mas level. This confusion noise is the main non-instrumental effect limiting the astrometric accuracy and precision of current near-infrared imaging observations and the longterm monitoring of individual stellar orbits in the vicinity of the central supermassive black hole. We self-consistently simulate the motions of the known and the yet unidentified stars to characterize this noise component and show that a likely consequence of source confusion is a bias in estimates of the stellar orbital elements, as well as the inferred mass and distance of the black hole, in particular if stars are being observed at small projected separations from it, such as the star S2 during pericentre passage. Furthermore, we investigate modelling the effect of source confusion as an additional noise component that is time-correlated, demonstrating a need for improved noise models to obtain trustworthy estimates of the parameters of interest (and their uncertainties) in future astrometric studies.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society.
- Galaxy: centre
- Proper motions
- Techniques: high angular resolution