Scientists Just Captured the First Image Ever Taken of the Black Hole at the Heart of the Milky Way
While astronomers have long known that the Milky Way is the galaxy that holds our solar system, it's still a mystery in many ways; we don't truly understand every part of it. Researchers just learned something new, however, after snapping the first-ever image of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, reports The New York Times. Within the heart of our galaxy, there is a supermassive black hole, formally called Sagittarius A*, which is over four million times the mass of the Sun. Scientists have only been able to measure the black hole's size based on the movements of objects around it—but this marks the first time they've been able to visualize this region of space.
The image featured above is Sagittarius A* and was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration. This discovery helped scientists confirm the black hole's size, which was accurately predicted; its unique shape shows the dust and shadow around the mass. According to EHT member Feryal Ozel of the University of Arizona, "it seems that black holes like doughnuts," she shared during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
The EHT Collaboration telescope caught the image of Sagittarius A* by averaging together thousands of images from computational methods. From there, the images were grouped together into four feature-based categories that aligned with each cluster of the black hole. This finding will help scientists understand gravity, test general relativity, and learn more about the role black holes play out in space, Mariafelicia de Laurentis of the University of Naples "Federico II" and the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) explained.
Sagittarius A* has a similar appearance to M87*, which is the first-ever black hole ever captured via image. Researchers note that they are different from one another due to their environments, but they are both surrounded by a field of gravity. de Laurentis said that Sagittarius A* also gathers materials one million times less than M87*.