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Friday, May 20, 2022

Astronomers capture first picture of Milky Way’s massive black hole

by Seth Bornstein

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — The world on Thursday saw the first wild but fuzzy image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our own galaxy, with astronomers calling it a “benign giant” on a near-starvation diet.

Astronomers believe that almost all galaxies, including ours, are at the center of these massive black holes, where light and matter cannot escape, making their images extremely difficult to obtain. Light is chaotically twisted and turned around by gravity as it is sucked into the abyss along with superheated gas and dust.

The color image unveiled Thursday is from the international consortium behind the Event Horizon Telescope, a collection of eight synchronized radio telescopes around the world. Previous efforts have found the black hole at the center of our galaxy to be too juggling to get a good picture.

Declaring the breakthrough, Feriel Ozell of the University of Arizona called the black hole “the soft giant at the center of our galaxy.” The black hole swallowed galactic matter but Ozell said it is “eating very little.”

The Milky Way black hole is called Sagittarius A (asterisk), which is near the border of the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius. It is 4 million times more massive than our Sun.

“What’s better than looking at the black hole at the center of our own Milky Way,” Caltech astronomer Katherine Bowman said at a news conference.

This is not the first picture of a black hole. The same group released the first in 2019 and was from a galaxy 53 million light-years away. The Milky Way black hole is about 27,000 light years away. A light year is 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion kilometers).

The cost of the project was approximately $60 million, with $28 million coming from the US National Science Foundation.

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