May 17, 2022

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Black hole hunters take a look at the center of the Milky Way

Black hole hunters take a look at the center of the Milky Way

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the center of our galaxy lives the spiral Milky Way, a supermassive black hole 4 million times the mass of our sun that consumes any matter including gas, dust and stray stars within. The massive gravitational force.

Scientists have been using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a global network of observatories that work collectively to observe radio sources associated with black holes, to study the inhabitants of this Milky Way, and they made an announcement Thursday that they could finally obtain an image. from him. The black hole is called Sagittarius A* or SgrA*.

Researchers participating in this international collaboration declined to reveal the nature of their announcement ahead of scheduled press conferences but released a press release that they called a “groundbreaking finding at the center of our galaxy.”

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In 2019, the EHT team unveiled a file First picture ever from the black hole. The image – a glowing ring of red, yellow and white surrounding a dark center – showed the supermassive black hole at the center of another galaxy called Messier 87, or M87.

The researchers also focused their work on Sagittarius A*, which lies about 26,000 light-years away – the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km) – from Earth.

“One of the things we hope to observe with the Event Horizon Telescope … is our very own black hole in our own backyard,” astrophysicist Shepherd Doelman, a Harvard-Smithsonian Center astrophysicist and former EHT project manager, said during July 2021. Scientific presentation.

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Black holes are unusually dense objects with a gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape.

There are different classes of black holes. The smallest are so-called stellar-mass black holes, which are formed by the collapse of individual massive stars at the ends of their life cycles. There are also intermediate-mass black holes, which are more massive. Finally, there are the supermassive black holes that inhabit the center of most galaxies. These are thought to arise relatively soon after their galaxies form, gobbling up huge amounts of material to achieve gigantic size.

The EHT project began in 2012 to try to observe the immediate environment of a black hole. The event horizon of a black hole is the point of no return beyond which anything — stars, planets, gas, dust, and all forms of electromagnetic radiation — is dragged into oblivion.

The fact that black holes do not allow light to escape makes them very difficult to view. Project scientists searched for a ring of light — intermittent super-hot matter and radiation circling at tremendous speed at the edge of the event horizon — around a dark region that represented the actual black hole. This is known as a black hole’s shadow, or silhouette.

The Milky Way, seen from above or below, is known as a spiral galaxy, and it looks like a spinning wheel, with our Sun located on one of the spiral arms and Sagittarius A* in the center. The galaxy contains at least 100 billion stars.

The M87 black hole is farther and much more massive than Sagittarius A*, located about 54 million light-years from Earth and has a mass of 6.5 billion times the mass of our Sun. Upon revealing the image of this black hole, the researchers said that their work showed that Albert Einstein, the famous theoretical physicist, correctly predicted that the shape of the shadow would be an almost perfect circle.

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Thursday’s announcement will be made at simultaneous press conferences in the United States, Germany, China, Mexico, Chile, Japan and Taiwan. Netherlands-based radio astronomer Huib Jan van Langevelde is the current EHT project manager.

Doeleman emphasized the scale of the size of supermassive black holes.

“There are big things out there when we are young,” Doelman said. “But it’s also kind of uplifting in a certain way as well. We have a lot to explore in the universe.”

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Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.