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Massive Black Hole At Centre Of Our Galaxy Has Been Pictured For The First Time

by : Emily Brown on :
Massive Black Hole At Centre Of Our Galaxy Has Been Pictured For The First Time
Massive Black Hole At Centre Of Our Galaxy Has Been Pictured For The First Time (EHT Collaboration)

The first image of the massive black hole at the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way, has been revealed.

Captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), the image was unveiled today (12 May) in six simultaneous news conferences in Washington DC and around the globe.

The image shows a glowing circle of orange-yellow light surrounding a dark centre portion and was captured through the work of the eight synchronised radio telescopes around the world which make up the EHT.

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Named Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole is around 4.3 million times the mass of the Sun and is located approximately 27,000 light-years away from Earth.

Sagittarius A* is located at the centre of the Milky Way. Credit: Alamy
Sagittarius A* is located at the centre of the Milky Way. Credit: Alamy

The team behind the EHT had a breakthrough in capturing images of a black hole they revealed the first picture of another black hole, M87, in 2019.

Sagittarius A* proved more difficult for scientists to capture, The New York Times reports, as it evolves a thousand times faster than M87, changing its appearance as often as every few minutes as light was bent and twisted around by gravity being sucked into the centre.

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The team managed to capture the image after developing new tools to account for the gas movement around Sagittarius A* and observing the supermassive black hole on multiple nights, collecting data for many hours in a row in a similar way to how long exposure time is used on cameras.

Describing the difference in capturing images of the two black holes, EHT scientist Chi-kwan (‘CK’) Chan, from Steward Observatory and Department of Astronomy and the Data Science Institute of the University of Arizona, US, said: “The gas in the vicinity of the black holes moves at the same speed — nearly as fast as light — around both Sgr A* and M87*.

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"But where gas takes days to weeks to orbit the larger M87*, in the much smaller Sgr A* it completes an orbit in mere minutes. This means the brightness and pattern of the gas around Sgr A* was changing rapidly as the EHT Collaboration was observing it — a bit like trying to take a clear picture of a puppy quickly chasing its tail.”

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After capturing the image, EHT scientist Keiichi Asada, from the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Academia Sinica, Taipei, said the team will be able to study the differences between the two black holes to gain 'valuable new clues about how this important process works'.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University before going on to contribute to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems. She joined UNILAD in 2018 and now works as Senior Journalist covering breaking news, trending stories and longer form features with a focus on human interest stories.

Topics: News, Space, Technology, US News, World News, Science