Meet Sagittarius A* – Astronomers Reveal First Image of the Black Hole at the Heart of the Milky Way

This is the first image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. It’s the first direct visual evidence of the presence of this black hole. It was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), an array that linked together eight existing radio observatories across the planet to form a single “Earth-sized” virtual telescope. The telescope is named after the event horizon, the boundary of the black hole beyond which no light can escape. Credit: EHT Collaboration

Today (May 12, 2022), at simultaneous press conferences around the world, including at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) headquarters in Germany, astronomers have unveiled the first image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. This result provides overwhelming evidence that the object is indeed a black hole and yields valuable clues about the workings of such giants, which are thought to reside at the center of most galaxies. The image was produced by a global research team called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration, using observations from a worldwide network of radio telescopes.

The image is a long-anticipated look at the massive object that sits at the very center of our galaxy. Scientists had previously seen stars orbiting around something invisible, compact, and very massive at the center of the Milky Way. This strongly suggested that this object — known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*, pronounced “sadge-ay-star”) — is a black hole, and today’s image provides the first direct visual evidence of it.

Although we cannot see the black hole itself, because it is completely dark, glowing gas around it reveals a telltale signature: a dark central region (called a shadow) surrounded by a bright ring-like structure. The new view captures light bent by the powerful gravity of the black hole, which is four million times more massive than our Sun.

For more on this, including more pictures and videos see: Stunning Reveal: First Image of the Black Hole at the Center of the Milky Way.

This research was presented in six papers published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

AstronomyAstrophysicsBlack HoleEuropean Southern ObservatoryEvent Horizon TelescopeMilky Way
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  • Robert Adams

    WOW! What an exciting time to be alive. The Webb telescope makes it so.