Astronomers Capture 1st Image of Milky Way's Huge Black Hole

By SETH BORENSTEIN AP Science Writer

Summary:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Astronomers have unveiled the first wild but fuzzy image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. Nearly all galaxies, including our own, are believed to have these giant black holes at their center, where light and matter cannot escape, making it extremely hard to get images of them. The image released Thursday was made by eight synchronized radio telescopes around the world. This is not the first picture of a black hole. The same international group released the first one in 2019 from a distant galaxy.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The world got a look Thursday at the first wild but fuzzy image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy.

National Science Foundation Holds News Conference On First Results From Event Horizon Telescope Project
IN SPACE - APRIL 10: In this handout photo provided by the National Science Foundation, the Event Horizon Telescope captures a black hole at the center of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon, in an image released on April 10, 2019. A network of eight radio observatories on six mountains and four continents, the EHT observed a black hole in Messier 87, a supergiant elliptical galaxy in the constellation Virgo, on and off for 10 days in April of 2017 to make the image. (Photo by National Science Foundation via Getty Images)
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Astronomers believe nearly all galaxies, including our own, have these giant black holes at their center, where light and matter cannot escape, making it extremely hard to get images of them. Light gets chaotically bent and twisted around by gravity as it gets sucked into the abyss along with superheated gas and dust.

The colorized 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 had found the black hole in the center of our galaxy too jumpy to get a good picture.

The University of Arizona's Feryal Ozel called the black hole "the gentle giant in the center of our galaxy" while announcing the new image.

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

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

The project cost nearly $60 million with $28 million coming from the U.S. National Science Foundation.
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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears .
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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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