Scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery about a supermassive black hole in Earth’s galaxy, this is what you need to know.
It sounds like something out of a sci-fi blockbuster, but this latest space discovery is very, very real.
An international team of scientists is set to reveal a “groundbreaking” discovery at the heart of our galaxy at 11 p.m. (AEST), via a live stream on YouTube.
Rumor has it that the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has captured images of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), a supermassive black hole in the middle of the Milky Way.
And we could be among the first in the world to see it
This will be the second time the EHT has captured images of a black hole after unveiling the first ever sequence of a black hole in the center of the galaxy Messier 87 (M87) some 55 million years ago in 2019. light.
The image revealed a bright yellow and red ring of superheated gas and dust around black hole M87.
Since then, the EHT’s international observatory network has focused its attention on capturing Sgr A*, in the hope that it will unlock the secrets of the Milky Way’s evolution and prove the existence of event horizons – or the “point of no return” of a black hole. ”.
But, before seeing it, first, a quick scientific explainer.
What is the Sgr A* black hole?
First detected in 1970, the Sgr A* black hole was identified in the 1990s by two separate American and German teams who studied the precise motions of stars in the middle of our galaxy. A movement, they determined, that could only be possible under the influence of a black hole.
NASA estimates that Sgr A* is about 27,000 light-years from Earth, or about 9.5 trillion kilometers, or the distance light travels in a year.
It’s just a baby in the supermassive scheme of things, at around 4 million times the mass of our Sun. That’s tiny compared to the much larger and brighter M87 black hole, with a mass of around 6.5 billion suns.
Why is Sgr A* important?
Scientists believe that supermassive black holes like Sgr A*, which have collapsed under their own immense gravity, form a sort of “event horizon” barrier that, once breached, cannot be escaped.
But the Sgr A* black hole is unique in that there is no star big enough or close enough to collapse directly into a black hole of its size. It is hoped that capturing images of this black hole will reveal its origin and how the Milky Way evolved millions of years ago.
Have we seen it before?
So far, our view of Sgr A* has been limited to the material flying around him.
In 2010, the Chandra X-ray Observatory took a snapshot of our galaxy’s center that showed remnants of a massive explosion near Sgr A* and large bubbles of hot gas spanning a dozen years -light on each side, as well as mysterious x-ray filaments.
The EHT team previously modeled what the black hole might look like, but the simulation is blurry due to gas and dust around its crushing gravitational center.
What can we expect to see?
But given the hype the EHT has given tonight’s announcement, astrophysicists say we can expect more than an orange ring like M87.
Some have predicted seeing some sort of “jet phenomenon” erupt from the black hole; but University of Swinburne astrophysicist Alister Graham says the image could reveal not one, but two supermassive black holes circling each other.
Something, he says, is “long overdue” by scientists.
“Our Milky Way has many trails of debris from smaller galaxies… which have been captured and torn apart,” Professor Graham told the ABC.
“Some of these captives may well have delivered massive black holes that are now on their way to, or already at, the center of our galaxy.”
How can you see the dark hole
If ordinary telescopes aren’t enough, you can bet our ordinary human eyes won’t either.
But the EHT will announce their discovery at a simultaneous press conference which you can watch live via their YouTube stream or via Facebook.