Astronomers have shown the first image of a black hole at the center of the Milky Way

(ORDO NEWS) — The international research team of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, which initiated the pooling of the power of radio telescopes around the world to study black holes, demonstrated the first ever image of the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A * (Sgr A *), hiding in the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

This is an extremely important moment in astrophysics, since the results achieved finally prove the existence of the Sagittarius A* black hole and confirm the correctness of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Sagittarius A* – the “monster” of the Milky Way

The black hole Sagittarius A* is 25,640 light-years away (very little by astronomical standards), and its mass is 4.3 million times that of the Sun. Despite this, it was incredibly difficult to get a picture directly. By comparison, it’s like taking a picture of a tennis ball on the Moon while on Earth.

The rather blurry image shows hot gas surrounding the black hole, whose powerful gravitational force distorts the emitted light.

“We were stunned by how well the size of the ring [accretion disk] agreed with the predictions of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity,” commented Jeffrey Bauer, an astrophysicist and EHT project contributor at the Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA) in Taipei, Taiwan.

“These unprecedented observations greatly improve our understanding of what is happening at the very center of our Galaxy and provide new insights into how these giant black holes interact with their surroundings.”

On April 10, 2019, the EHT team shared the first ever image of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Messier 87 (M 87) galaxy; its mass is 6.5 billion times that of the Sun, and it is further away than Sagittarius A*, at a distance of about 53.5 million light-years from Earth.

Astronomers have shown the first image of a black hole at the center of the Milky Way 2
The process of imaging the black hole at the center of the Milky Way

Similarities between two black holes startled scientists

“We have two very different types of galaxies and two very different black holes, but near the ‘edge’ these black holes look strikingly similar,” said Sera Markoff, co-chair of the EHT Science Council and professor of theoretical astrophysics at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Since the sizes and masses of the two black holes differ by several orders of magnitude, these two images provide scientists with a key insight into the laws of physics that underlie their nature.

“We have images of two black holes one at the large and one at the small end [talking about the mass] of the stretch of supermassive black holes in the universe so now we can go much further than ever before in testing how gravity itself in these extreme conditions,” said Keiichi Asada, an astrophysicist and EHT project contributor from ASIAA.

The EHT team plans to create sharper images – and possibly even videos – of black holes, but first they need to make a few technological upgrades.


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