Astronomers have revealed images of a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a telescope array consisting of a global network of radio telescopes.
The researchers had previously identified stars orbiting an invisible massive object at the very centre of the galaxy, now known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*, pronounced “sadge-ay-star”) which is now identified as a black hole.
Although you cannot see the black hole itself, the images indicate the glowing ring-like gas structure and light being bent by the powerful gravity pull of the black hole, which is four million times more powerful than the sun in our solar system.
Geoffrey Bower from the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Academia Sinica, Taipei said: “We were stunned by how well the size of the ring agreed with predictions from Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. These unprecedented observations have greatly improved our understanding of what happens at the very centre of our galaxy, and offer new insights on how these giant black holes interact with their surroundings.”
The breakthrough follows the EHT 2019 release of the first image of a black hole called M87*, located at the centre of the more distant Messier 87 galaxy. The EHT have collected data on Sgr A* since 2017, only now being able to extrapolate the data to produce an image of the latest confirmation of a black hole discovery.
“We have two completely different types of galaxies and two very different black hole masses, but close to the edge of these black holes they look amazingly similar,” says Sera Markoff, Co-Chair of the EHT Science Council.
Header Image Credit : EHT