The Milky Way’s Black Hole Comes to Light

Astronomers announced today that they have pierced a veil of darkness and dust in the center of our galaxy and captured the first image of the “benign giant” inhabiting it: a supermassive black hole, a trapdoor in space-time through which the equivalent of 4 million suns of eternity. Sent for, leaving only their gravity and violently curved space-time.

The image, released simultaneously at six news conferences in Washington, D.C. and around the world, shows a donut bundle of radio emissions that creates a dark and quiet space like death.

The new image connects to the first image of a black hole, created in 2019 by the same team that photographed the monster in the heart of the M87. The new image reveals new details of astrophysical violence and the peculiarities of gravity that influence the center of our quiet-looking hive of starlight.

Black holes were the undesirable consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which attributed gravity to the disruption of space and time by matter and energy, as the mattress beneath the sleeper bends.

Einstein’s insights led to a new conception of the universe, in which space-time could vibrate, twist, tear, expand, rotate, and disappear forever into a black hole, an entity with gravity so strong that light Can’t even escape. That

Einstein rejected this idea, but the universe is now known to be covered with black holes. There are many remnants of dead stars that had broken inwards and just kept going.

But almost every galaxy seems to have a black hole at its center, including ours, which could be millions or billions of times larger than our Sun. Astronomers still do not understand how these supermassive black holes became so large.

Paradoxically, despite their ability to absorb light, black holes are the brightest objects in the universe. Materials – gas, dust, shredded stars – that fall into a black hole are heated to millions of degrees in a dense melstrom of an electromagnetic field. Most of this material falls into black holes, but is ejected by some enormous pressure and magnetic fields.

Such fireworks, which can propel the galaxies over a thousand times, can be seen all over the universe; When it was first observed in the early 1960’s, it was called Kwasar. His discovery prompted physicists and astronomers to take seriously the idea of ​​a black hole.

What gave birth to such behemoths of emptiness is a mystery. Dense wrinkles in the primitive powers of the Big Bang? Monster runaway stars that crashed into the rising years of the universe and used their surroundings?

The center of the galaxy coincides with an obscure source of radio sound called Sagittarius A *. Astronomers including Andrea Geez of the University of California, Los Angeles and Reinhard Ganzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics calculated that there was a mass of 4.14 million suns in whatever it was. They made that estimate about the center of the galaxy by tracking the orbits of the stars and the moving gas clouds and measuring their velocity at the speed of one third of the light. For his achievement, Dr. Genzel and Drs. Ghez won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2020.

According to research back to the 1967 paper by physicist James Bardin, Sagittarius black holes, if they existed, should appear as haunted dark circles amidst the fog of radio waves. At 50 million miles, this hollow shadow will appear as large as an orange on the moon from Earth.

Astronomers are trying to sharpen the intensity of their telescope to solve that orange shadow. But the ionized electrons and protons in the interstellar space scatter the radio waves in a blur that obscures the source details. “It’s like looking through a shower glass,” said Shepard Doleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

To look deeper into the shadows of black holes, researchers needed to be able to tune their radio telescopes with shorter wavelengths that could penetrate the fog. And they needed a big telescope.

In 2009, Dr. Doleman and his colleagues created the Event Horizon Telescope, an international collaboration that now includes more than 300 astronomers from 13 organizations. Today, it employs 11 different radio telescopes around the world, working in concert to build a globe-sized telescope, such as Dr. Doeleman likes to say.

The telescope is named after the point of no return around the black hole. The team achieved its first victory in April 2019, when it unveiled a picture of the M87 black hole. In 2021, team members refined their data to detect magnetic fields revolving around a black hole, such as in tiny grooved rifle barrel pumping material and energy voids.

Sagittarius A *, a black hole in the galaxy, is a difficult target. It is less than a thousandth of the mass and size of an M87 hole and, therefore, it develops a thousand times faster. The M87 black hole seldom rings during a week-long observation, but Sagittarius A * changes its appearance as often as every five minutes. The challenge for black-hole cinema is to distinguish what changes occur from what remains the same – depicting the underlying structure of a black hole from what revolves around it.

The results could be stunning and informative, said Janna Levine, a gravity theorist at Bernard College, Columbia University, who was not part of the project. “I’m not fed up with pictures of black holes yet,” she said.

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