Scientists using Event Horizon Telescope unveil image of huge black hole at Milky Way’s centre

Washington: On Thursday, scientists provided the first look at the monster that lurks at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, unveiling the image of a supermassive black hole that devours any stray matter in its gargantuan gravitational pull.

The black hole – called Sagittarius A*, or SgrA* – is only the second to be imaged. The feat was accomplished by the same international collaboration Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) that in 2019 unveiled the first-ever photo of a black hole – this one residing at the heart of a different galaxy.

The Milky Way’s black hole is called Sagittarius A*, near the boundary of the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius.Credit:By access point

Sagittarius A* has 4 million times the mass of our sun and is located about 26,000 light-years – the distance light travels in a year, or 9.5 trillion km – from Earth.

Black holes are extraordinarily dense objects with such strong gravity that not even light can escape, making them quite difficult to visualize. A black hole’s event horizon is the point of no return beyond which everything — stars, planets, gas, dust, and all forms of electromagnetic radiation — is swept into oblivion.

Project scientists searched for a ring of light — superheated disturbed matter and radiation flowing at tremendous speed at the edge of the event horizon — around a region of darkness representing the actual black hole. This is called the shadow or silhouette of the black hole.

The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy that contains at least 100 billion stars. Seen from above or below, it looks like a spinning pinwheel, with our sun located on one of the spiral arms and Sagittarius A* located in the center.

The Submillimetre Array, part of the Event Horizon Telescope array, on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

The Submillimetre Array, part of the Event Horizon Telescope array, on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.Credit:Maunakea Observatories via AP

The image released in 2019 of the supermassive black hole in a galaxy called Messier 87, or M87, showed a bright ring of red, yellow and white surrounding a dark center. The M87 black hole is much more distant and massive than Sagittarius A*, located about 54 million light-years from Earth with a mass 6.5 billion times that of our sun.

The researchers said Sagittarius A*, although much closer to our solar system than M87, was harder to imagine.

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