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Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole Photographed?


The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has called a press conference on May 12 to reveal an “extraordinary announcement” about the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. It is believed that it will announce the first photograph of the Sagittarius A* event horizon, a historic event for astronomy because so far only animations and simulations of this class of cosmic structures are available.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is preparing to make a historic announcement in the coming days. It has reported the holding of a global conference on May 12, in which the results of new advances obtained by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project will be presented, which in 2019 was responsible for the first direct image of a black hole . It is believed that it could be announced the first photograph of Sagittarius A*the supermassive black hole located in the heart of the Milky Way.

A photo of an “invisible” object

If scientists have managed to produce a real image of the Sagittarius A* event horizon, it will mark a before and after for astronomy: it would be a feat because black holes are practically “invisible”, since absorb all the electromagnetic radiation around them. According to an article published in Science Alert, the announcement would be related to that achievement: until today, there are only computer simulations and animations of the huge supermassive black hole.

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What could be visualized from Sagittarius A* is the event horizon, also known as the event horizon: it is essentially the “outline” of the black hole, a space where light cannot escape the gravitational forces of the colossal structure. In General Relativity, this concept is defined as a “border” of space-time, in which the events that happen on one side of it cannot affect an observer located on the opposite side.

The first direct image of a black hole was obtained in 2019 (see photo). It is located in the center of the galaxy M87, located 53.49 million light-years away from Earth, and has a mass 6.5 billion times greater than that of our Sun. The event horizon that could be recorded has a radius of approximately 20 billion kilometers. When they obtained the image, the specialists compared it to observing an object 1 millimeter in size from a distance of 13,000 kilometers.

Reigning in the center of the Milky Way

Nevertheless, Sagittarius A* It is noticeably smaller than the black hole photographed in 2019, although at the same time abysmal: it is 4.3 million times larger than the Sun. This would make the image even more complex, although it is worth the effort: an investigation by the Foundation The US National Science Institute concluded earlier this year that Sagittarius A* concentrates 99.9% of the mass that exists in the center of the Milky Wayshowing that its influence on galactic processes may be even greater than is thought until today.

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In that study, astronomers noted that the motion of the stars shows that the mass at the center of the galaxy is composed almost entirely of Sagittarius A* matter, leaving little room for stars, other black holes, interstellar dust and gas. or dark matter. In other words, the supermassive black hole is absolute king in that sector of the Milky Way and maintains a gravitational attraction that seems to define in part the destiny of the galaxy.

Located about 25,640 light-years away from Earth, Sagittarius A* is located near the edge of the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius. Supermassive black holes appear to be present at the centers of most spiral and elliptical galaxies. In 2020, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez received the Nobel Prize in Physics for proving that Sagittarius A* is a supermassive compact objectfeatures for which a black hole is the only currently known plausible explanation.

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