Scientists on Thursday gave a first look at what they called the “soft giant” perched at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, revealing a picture of a huge black hole tearing everything that moves within a mass gravity.
The black hole – called Sagittarius A *, or Sgr A * – is only the second ever to be depicted. This work has been implemented by the International Horizon Telescope Cooperation (EHT) which in 2019 unveiled the first image of a black hole – the one that lives in the heart of a different galaxy.
University of Arizona astronomer Feryal Özel, at a press conference in Washington, praised “the first direct image of a giant giant in the center of our galaxy”, depicting the red, yellow, and white circle surrounding the black center.
Sagittarius A * (also called the Sagittarius “A” star) is four times the mass of our sun and is about 26,000 light-years – the distance traveled by light a year, 9.5 trillion kilometers – from Earth.
Dark holes are unusually dense objects that have a strong magnetic field that prevents light from escaping, making them difficult to see. The black hole event is a place of no return beyond anything – stars, planets, gas, dust and all kinds of electromagnetic radiation – is drawn into oblivion.
The scientists of the project looked at a circle of light – a highly disturbed object with a rotating speed at the boundary of the event – around a dark area representing the darkest hole. This is known as a black hole shadow or shadow.
This picture shows a bright ring around the dark, a striking symbol of the shadow of a black hole, ”said Özel. “The light emitting from the hot gas around the black hole appears to us like a glowing circle. The light closest to the black hole – close enough to be swallowed by it – eventually crosses the horizon and leaves behind a dark space in the center.”
“It has been a soft black hole, more cohesive than we had hoped for over the past decade to measure its position,” added Özel. “We like our black hole.”
The Milky Way galaxy is a orbiting galaxy containing at least 100 billion stars. Viewed from above or below it is like a spinning wheel, with our sun set on one of the rotating arms and the Sagittarius A * in the center.
‘Cracked but not working’
The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomer Michael Johnson called the black hole “fragile but not functional”, eating a small object.
An image released in 2019 showed a large black hole in the galaxy called the Messier 87, or M87. The black hole of the M87 is much farther and larger than the Sagittarius A *, standing about 54m light-years from Earth and weighing 6.5bn more than our sun.
Researchers say that Sagittarius A *, although much closer to our solar system than the M87, was difficult to understand.
The size of the Sagittarius A * is about 17 times the size of the sun, which means that it would occupy the center of the Mercury solar system. In contrast, the M87 diameter would encompass our entire solar system.
“The Sagittarius A * is a little over a thousand times smaller than the black hole on the M87, but because it is so close to our galaxy and should appear just bigger in space,” said radio astronomer Lindy Blackburn, EHT data. Scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Institute of Astrophysics.
“However the small body size of Sgr A * also means that everything changes about a thousand times faster in Sgr A * than the M87. Blackburn.
The Event Horizon Telescope is a global network of interactive viewing sites to view radio sources linked to black holes. The project was started in 2012.
There are different types of black holes. The smallest are called stellar-mass black holes caused by the collapse of large stars at the end of their life cycle. There are also dark holes in the middle, a step up the weight. And finally, there are some very large black holes in the center of the galaxy. It is thought that these phenomena occur soon after the formation of their galaxies, tearing apart a piece of material to achieve greater size.
Thursday’s announcement was made at simultaneous press conferences in the United States, Germany, China, Mexico, Chile, Japan and Taiwan.