Astronomers verified that the black hole in the middle of our galaxy was indeed a blackhole and have photographed it.
A team of astronomers has confirmed that the massive object in the Milky Way’s center is indeed an astrophysical black hole. They also captured the world’s first images using a network of international telescopes. A team of scientists known as the Event Horizon Telescope, (EHT), Collaboration unveiled the images at several press conferences on Thursday.
Known as Sagittarius A, the object at the center of the Milky Way – “Invisible, compact, and massive,” as described in a press release published by the European Southern Observatory – was long suspected to be a black hole. This hypothesis is supported by the direct evidence provided by images obtained through the linking of a worldwide network of radio telescopes.
The images show a dark central “shadow” surrounded by a bright ring made up of glowing gasses, the light they produce bent by the black hole’s powerful gravity. This object is 4 million times larger than the Sun and 27,000 light-years from the Earth.
The visuals were recorded by linking together eight radio observatories around the world to form what the researchers described as “a single ‘Earth-sized’ virtual telescope,” which was then used to observe Sagittarius A for hours at a time on multiple nights in 2017.
EHT includes over 300 researchers from more than 80 institutes. They previously imaged M87, the central black hole of Messier 87’s distant Messier 87 galaxy. The EHT published those results in 2019. Sagittarius A, which is also closer to the Milky Way’s black hole M87, is over 1000 times smaller than Sagittarius A and much less massive. However, it was significantly more difficult to photograph given the more rapid orbit time of the gases surrounding the Milky Way’s black hole, with EHT scientist Chi-kwan Chan likening the process to “Try to capture a picture of the puppy running fast after its tail..”
Still, the end product looks remarkably similar to its much larger cousin, M87, the EHT’s science council co-chair, Sera Markoff, observed, viewing the similarity as proof that, “These objects are subject to General Relativity, so any difference we observe further must be caused by differences in the surrounding material..”
The first wandering blackhole ever found in the galaxy
They hope to utilize the data collected on the black holes for testing hypotheses. These include their impact on gravity, gas behavior in their proximity, and other questions. The latter is a complex process, which although not well understood by astronomers, could play a role in galaxies’ formation and evolution.
Six papers were published in Astrophysical Journal Letters to accompany the photograph findings. They covered a range of topics, including the imaging process and the morphology black holes.
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