A massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy has finally been captured in an image after years of theorizing about its existence.
“We finally have the first look at our Milky Way black hole, Sagittarius A*. It’s the dawn of a new era of black hole physics,” the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project said on Twitter on Thursday.
The Sagittarius A* black hole lies at the heart of the Milky Way but its existence until now had only been theoretical.
The image “provides overwhelming evidence that the object is indeed a black hole and yields valuable clues about the workings of such giants, which are thought to reside at the centre of most galaxies,” the project said in a statement.
The global team used observations from a worldwide network of radio telescopes to construct the photo.
“Scientists had previously seen stars orbiting around something invisible, compact, and very massive at the centre of the Milky Way. This strongly suggested that this object – known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*, pronounced "sadge-ay-star") – is a black hole, and today’s image provides the first direct visual evidence of it,” they added.
“We were stunned by how well the size of the ring agreed with predictions from Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity," said EHT Project Scientist Geoffrey Bower of the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taipei, Taiwan. "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.”
Sagittarius A* is 27,000 light years from Earth. Because of its far distance from our planet it appears to be about the same size as a donut on the Moon, the project explained.
The black hole was detected as a very bright astronomical radio signal from the Galactic Center of the Milky Way. It is located near the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius.