Astronomers have finally spotted the center of the Milky Way galaxy, revealing a massive black hole, a celestial vortex 26,000 light-years from Earth that would otherwise have been hidden from view.
On Thursday, an international team of researchers released an image of the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A*, captured using the power of eight linked radio dishes from around the world that can penetrate through gas clouds in space. While black holes are by definition invisible – light cannot escape their grasp – Sagittarius A* appeared as a black shadow surrounded by the bright glow of the gas and debris swirling around its perimeter.
The image in deep space that resembles a solar eclipse
The image showed a region of deep space that resembles a solar eclipse – a dark circle surrounded by a radiant red-orange beam. The image was colored so that it could be seen by human eyes.
Until three years ago, any image of a black hole was merely an artist’s interpretation or computer model of the spinning, spacetime-bending phenomenon. This object, as seen in the photo at the top of this story, is the real deal, with each pixel representing a massive effort: hundreds of scientists from 80 institutions around the world working together to collect, process and merge data fragments.
This discovery was also previously reported 3 years ago
The discovery was also reported in the scientific journal Astrophysical Journal Letters† The Event Horizon Telescope, an international collaboration of 300 scientists who worked on the feat, simultaneously held press conferences in at least seven countries, including the United States at the National Press Club in the nation’s capital, to share the news.
We finally have our first look at our Milky Way black hole, Sagittarius A*. It is the beginning of a new era of black hole physics. Credit: EHT Collaboration. #OurBlackHole #SgrABlackHole
Clutch: https://t.co/Ax7ECRVg8A pic.twitter.com/LRWizSYOy9
— Event Horizon ‘Scope (@ehtelescope) May 12, 2022
The image of Sagittarius A*, pronounced “Sagittarius A-Star,” is a monumental achievement, the second time scientists have broken the barrier of invisibility to see a black hole. The first image, released in April 2019, showed the black hole at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy, which due to its size was easier to capture despite being much further away, at about 53 million light-years. Astronomers estimate that the black hole, known as M87*, is the size of Earth’s eight-planet solar system.
According to Feryal zel, a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Arizona, the second photo is a powerful confirmation for the scientific community.
“We now know it wasn’t a coincidence — that it wasn’t some aspect of the environment that looked like the ring we expected to see,” she said at a news conference in Washington, DC. “We now know that what we see in both cases is the heart of the black hole, the point of no return. These two images are similar because they are the result of fundamental gravitational forces.”
Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, is much smaller, about 27 million miles in diameter, but it’s not a peep. According to scientists, it is 4 million times more massive than the Sun. Consider this to make a difficult number even more confusing: the mass of the sun is equal to 333,000 Earths.
His Milky Way home is a spiral galaxy
Its Milky Way home is a spiral galaxy, but the center sinks down where the supermassive black hole is. Stars fly around it in all directions. However, the hole, often anthropomorphized in popular culture as a space monster, is quite “soft” according to researchers and consumes relatively little of the environment.
Black holes are among the most elusive objects in space. The most common type, known as a stellar black hole, is often thought to be the result of a massive star dying during a supernova explosion. The star’s material then collapses and condenses into a small region.
Formation of supermassive black holes
However, the formation of supermassive black holes, which are millions to billions of times more massive than the Sun, is even more mysterious than stellar black holes. Many astrophysicists and cosmologists believe that these behemoths are at the heart of almost all galaxies. Recent observations from the Hubble Space Telescope support the theory that supermassive black holes form in the dusty cores of starburst galaxies, where new stars are quickly produced, but scientists are still working on them.
Surfaces do not exist on black holes, as they do on planets and stars. Instead, they have a limit known as an “event horizon.” The point of no return is over. If something gets too close, it will fall in, never to escape the gravity of the hole.
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