Milky Way's Black Hole Is Unveiled

Astronomers offer first look at 'gentle giant' Sagittarius A*
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 12, 2022 10:04 AM CDT
Milky Way's Black Hole Is Unveiled
This image released Thursday shows a black hole, called Sagittarius A*, at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, near the border of the Sagittarius and Scorpius constellations.   (Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration via AP)

The world got a look Thursday at the first wild but fuzzy image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, per the AP. Astronomers believe nearly all galaxies, including our own, have these giant black holes at their center, where light and matter cannot escape, making it extremely hard to get images of them. Light gets chaotically bent and twisted around by gravity as it gets sucked into the abyss along with superheated gas and dust. The colorized image unveiled Thursday is from the international consortium behind the Event Horizon Telescope, a collection of eight synchronized radio telescopes around the world.

The University of Arizona's Feryal Ozel called the black hole "the gentle giant in the center of our galaxy" while announcing the new image. The Milky Way black hole near the border of the Sagittarius and Scorpius constellations is called Sagittarius A* (pronounced "Sagittarius A star"). It's 4 million times more massive than our sun. This isn't the first black hole image: The same group released the first one in 2019, and it was from a galaxy 53 million light-years away. The Milky Way black hole is much closer, about 27,000 light-years away. A light year is 5.9 trillion miles. The project cost nearly $60 million, with $28 million coming from the US National Science Foundation. (An image of a more distant black hole was unveiled in 2019.)

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