The supermassive black hole at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy has been photographed for the first time, giving astronomers invaluable insight into how black holes interact with their surroundings.
The object, known as Sagittarius A*, was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, the same global team that took the famous first-ever picture of a black hole inside the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy in 2019. Although the hole itself is entirely dark, it’s encircled by a bright ring of glowing gas that’s been warped by hole's own gravity.
The picture was made possible through linking eight existing radio observatories across the globe to form a single “Earth-sized” virtual telescope that collected data for many hours across multiple nights.
While the team acknowledged the visual similarities between the new picture and 2019’s M87* image, the masses of the two black holes and the types of galaxies surrounding them are very different. The researchers were able to work out that Sagittarius A*, which sits at the center of our small spiral galaxy, consumes gas at a much slower rate than M87*, which resides at the center of a giant elliptical galaxy and ejects a powerful jet of plasma.