Behold: The first picture of the black hole at the center of our galaxy

A global network of telescopes has captured the extreme environment surrounding the supermassive black hole in our cosmic backyard.

The first photo of superheated material surrounding the supermassive black hole in the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*. No light can escape from the black hole itself.
Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

The Milky Way’s heart, like so many, is a mystery. At our galaxy’s core is a supermassive black hole packed with the heft of four million suns. Surrounded by a glowing disk of roiling matter, this bottomless pit of space-time is normally obscured by a shroud of orbiting gas, dust, and stars.

But scientists using a global telescope network known as the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) have at last peered straight into the heart of the galaxy, and today they unveiled the first-ever image of this black hole’s silhouette. The observations, taken in 2017, were described in a suite of scientific papers published today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“Today, the Event Horizon Telescope is delighted to share with you the first direct image of the gentle giant in the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*,” the University of Arizona’s Feryal Özel said during a press briefing announcing the achievement. “I met it 20 years ago and have loved it and tried to understand it since. But until now, we didn’t have the direct picture confirming that Sagittarius A* was indeed a black hole.”

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