(WHNT) — The Event Horizon Telescope Team (EHT) announced a “groundbreaking” discovery in space – the first-ever image of the supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*.
The image shows a bright red-orange glowing ring at the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy.
This image of Sagittarius A, or Sgr A, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy is the first direct visual evidence proving that there is indeed a black hole at the center of our galaxy. It was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a network of telescopes that links together eight existing radio observatories across the planet to form one Earth-sized virtual telescope.
According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the telescope is named after the “event horizon”, the boundary of the black hole beyond which no light can escape.
Scientists with the project say the black hole is roughly 27,000 light-years away from Earth, so to us, it seems to be about the same size in the sky as a donut on the Moon. The EHT observed Sgr A* over the course of several nights, collecting data for multiple consecutive hours, similar to using a long exposure time on a camera.
The breakthrough follows the EHT collaboration’s 2019 release of the first image of a black hole, called M87*, at the center of the more distant Messier 87 galaxy.
The NSF says that even though the two pictures may seem similar, Sgr A is more than a thousand times smaller than M87. According to the team, even though the horizon itself isn’t visible since it cannot emit light, the glowing gas orbiting around the black hole reveals a telltale signature: a dark central region, or a “shadow,” surrounded by a bright ring-like structure.
The new image captures light being bent by the powerful gravity of the black hole, which is 4 million times more massive than Earth’s sun. The image of the Sgr A* black hole is an average of the different images that the EHT Collaboration has extracted from its 2017 observations.
You may recognize the name “Event Horizon Telescope” from when they released the first-ever image of a black hole after teasing to that discovery back in 2019. The EHT is a network of radio telescopes around the world that primarily studies black holes.
To learn more about the discovery, you can visit the National Science Foundation’s website here.