Astronomers reveal first image of black hole at Milky Way’s centre

An international team of astronomers on Thursday unveiled the first image of a supermassive black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy — a cosmic body known as Sagittarius A*.

The image — produced by a global team of scientists known as the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration — is the first, direct visual confirmation of the presence of this invisible object, and comes three years after the very first image of a black hole from a distant galaxy.

The image thus depicts not the black hole itself, because it is completely dark, but the glowing gas that encircles the phenomenon — which is four million times more massive than our Sun — in a bright ring of bending light.

Bower also said in a statement provided by the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) that the observations had offered “new insights on how these giant black holes interact with their surroundings”.

– Virtual telescope –

Its existence has been assumed since 1974, with the detection of an unusual radio source at the center of the galaxy.

Though the presence of a black hole was thought to be the only plausible explanation, the new image provides the first direct visual proof.

Capturing images of such a faraway object required linking eight giant radio observatories across the planet to form a single “Earth-sized” virtual telescope called the EHT.

The EHT gazed at Sgr A* across multiple nights for many hours in a row — a similar idea to long-exposure photography and the same process used to produce the first image of a black hole, released in 2019.

– Moving target –

“Close to the edge of these black holes, they look amazingly similar,” said Sera Markoff, co-chair of the EHT Science Council, and a professor at the University of Amsterdam.

Despite the fact that Sgr A* is much closer to us, imaging it presented unique challenges.

The researchers had to develop complex new tools to account for the moving targets.

Scientists are now eager to compare the two black holes to test theories about how gasses behave around them — a poorly understood phenomenon thought to play a role in the formation of new stars and galaxies.

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Originally published as Astronomers reveal first image of black hole at Milky Way’s center

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