Washington (AFP) – The world’s first image of a chaotic, chaotic black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy doesn’t depict a voracious cosmic destroyer but what astronomers on Thursday called a “gentle giant” on a diet close to starvation.
Astronomers believe that almost all galaxies, including our own, have these giant black holes at their center, where no light and matter can escape, making it extremely difficult to get images of them. The light is bent and twisted around by gravity as it is sucked into the abyss along with the protected gas and dust.
The color image unveiled Thursday is from the international consortium behind the Event Horizon Telescope, a group of eight synchronized radio telescopes around the world. Previous efforts to take a good picture have shown that a black hole is very fickle.
“It just made noise and gurgling when we looked at it,” said Ferial Ozil of the University of Arizona.
She called it a “gentle giant” while announcing the breakthrough with other astronomers involved in the project. It also confirmed Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity by being exactly the size dictated by Einstein’s equations. This is the size of Mercury’s orbit around our sun.
Black holes gobble up galactic material, but Ozil said this “eats very little.” Another astronomer said it was equivalent to eating one grain of rice over millions of years.
Scientists had expected the Milky Way’s black hole to be more violent, but “it turned out to be a much gentler and more cooperative black hole than we were simulating,” Ozil said. “We love our black hole.”
“It’s the cowardly lion of black holes,” said project scientist Jeffrey C. Power of the Taiwanese Seneca Academic Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Because the black hole is “on a starvation diet,” Bauer said, little material falls into the center, and this allows astronomers to peer deeper.
The black hole of the Milky Way is called Sagittarius A (asterisk), near the border of the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpio. It is 4 million times larger than our sun.
This is not the first image of a black hole. The same group released the first collection in 2019 It was from a galaxy about 53 million light-years away, which is 1,500 times larger than the one in our own galaxy. The Milky Way’s black hole is much closer, about 27,000 light-years away. A light year is 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).
To get the image, the eight telescopes had to coordinate closely “in a process similar to everyone shaking hands with everyone else in the room,” said astronomer Vincent Fish of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The project cost nearly $60 million with $28 million from the US National Science Foundation.
“What’s more amazing than seeing the black hole at the center of our Milky Way,” said Catherine Bowman of the California Institute of Technology.
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