Scientists photographed the shadow of a space monster in the heart of the Milky Way

For several years, researchers have dreamed of looking into the heart of the Milky Way. Surprisingly, their dream came true: with the help of the network of observatories in the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, astronomers published the first ever image of Sagittarius A * – a supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy. Its mass exceeds the solar mass by 4 million times, and this space monster is located at a distance of about 26 thousand light-years from Earth. But because black holes attract all objects in the vicinity, and it is impossible to see them, they are surrounded by luminous destroyed matter, which circles over the abyss at a speed close to the speed of light.

The center of the Milky Way is one of the most inaccessible places for astronomical observations.

Изображение Стрельца А* удалось с помощью сети радиотелескопов EHT, которая зафиксировала свет, искривленный гравитацией черной дыры в самом сердце нашей Галактики

The heart of the galaxy

Black holes are objects in space-time whose gravitational force engulfs everything in their vicinity. These mysterious celestial bodies attract light and matter that orbit and bend space and time.

It is technically impossible to see a black hole – neither light nor matter can escape beyond its event horizon. Yet the image of Sagittarius A * is strong evidence that one of the most incomprehensible objects in the universe is indeed located in the center of our galaxy.

The black hole in the middle of the Milky Way is 26,000 light-years from Earth.

Интересный факт
Команда потратила пять лет на анализ данных, полученных в апреле 2017 года. Получить изображение удалось благодаря сети радиотелескопов Event Horizon telescope (EHT), которая охватывает территории от Антарктиды до Испании и Чили.

In 2019, researchers published the first image of a black hole in the galaxy Messier 87. To the untrained eye, the image of Sagittarius A * certainly looks like an image of the black hole M87, but the EHT team claims that these objects are very different from each other.

Personally, I am pleased with the fact that we have finally proven that there is a black hole in the center of our galaxy, says Professor Ziri Yunsi, a member of the EHT Collaboration, from University College London, to The Guardian.

The universe is full of galaxies and black holes. That is a scientific fact

Astronomers believe that black holes are located at the center of almost every galaxy in the universe, including the Milky Way. Getting their images is not easy: when light is sucked into the abyss along with overheated gas and dust, it bends and twists under the influence of gravity.

Кстати, в будущем ученые намерены явить миру первое в истории видео черной дыры и того, как она поглощает все объекты вокруг себя. Подробнее о революционных планах астрономов мы рассказывали в этой статье, рекомендуем к прочтению.

What eats black holes

During a press conference on May 12, astronomers presented an image taken by EHT, a network of eight synchronized radio telescopes around the world. But creating a good and reliable image of Sagittarius A * is no easy task – all previous attempts have shown that the black hole in the middle of the Milky Way behaves restlessly.

In 2017, researchers proved that there are gravitational waves

Despite the lack of stability, the image of Sagittarius A * once again confirmed Einstein’s predictions and his general theory of relativity (GR): the black hole in the center of the galaxy corresponds to the dimensions predicted by the famous physicist’s equations. You can imagine the size of a space object by comparing it to Mercury’s orbit around the sun.

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As a rule, black holes in the hearts of galaxies absorb all nearby objects in huge quantities, unlike Sagittarius A *, which eats quite modestly. According to researchers, our black hole is “on a starvation diet” – very little material enters its center, but it was this property that enabled astronomers to make a groundbreaking discovery.

Big difference

The very first image of the shadow of a black hole in the center of the galaxy Messier 87, located 53 million light-years from Earth, was published three years ago. As in the case of M87, the image of Sagittarius A * is the result of EHT’s work.

Black hole M87. Photo submitted 2019

The black hole M87 is one of the largest in the universe. Its mass exceeds the solar mass by 6.5 billion times and absorbs a huge amount of matter and releases energy into outer space. We have talked more about the black hole in the Messier 87 galaxy before.

To return to Sagittarius A *, it should be noted that data obtained with EHT give us an idea of ​​a more standard condition for black holes: silent and immobile. According to astronomers, the behavior of a black hole in the Milky Way is common to many galaxies.

The observations can be compared to trying to photograph a puppy chasing its own tail using a camera with a slow shutter speed, the researchers explain.

Because Sagittarius A * is a relatively small black hole, the dust and gas circulate in its accumulation disk and create a moving target from one observation to another. Remember that accretion disk A black hole is a large mass of matter that heats up to enormous temperatures and orbits a monster in the galactic center.

Это интересно: Что скрывают звезды, вращающиеся вокруг сверхмассивной черной дыры в центре нашей галактики?

Event horizon telescope

EHT’s Event Horizon Telescope captures radiation emitted by particles inside a black hole’s accretion disk: the mottled halo in the images shows light bent by the black hole’s powerful gravity, which is 4 million times more massive than our sun.

Event Horizon Telescope acts as a unit

Event Horizon Telescope is a global radio interferometer with an ultra-long baseline. EHT got its name in honor of the “event horizon” – a point in space that not even light can leave. Simply put, the EHT actually forms a single virtual telescope “the size of the earth.”

Целью будущих исследований может стать «Единорог» – ближайшая к Земле черная дыра

This happens when all eight radio telescopes on different continents are synchronized with each other using atomic clocks and supercomputers for data processing. The cost of this unique project is approximately $ 60 million, 28 of which came from the US National Science Foundation.

The photograph of the shadow of Sagittarius A * is the result of technologically sophisticated observations and innovative computational algorithms, said Katherine Bowman of the California Institute of Technology at a news conference.

The latest astronomical instruments let us know the universe

Observations of the object were carried out for five full years, starting in 2017, and the resulting image of Sagittarius A * is the result of the work of more than 300 researchers from 80 countries in the world. The image, which was presented at the official press conference on May 12, 2022, consists of several thousand images of this space monster.

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In the end, scientists hope that observing a series of black holes, both fairly calm and turbulent, can help answer many questions about galaxy evolution – today there is no answer to the question of what came first – a galaxy or a black hole – there is no.

Another important aspect of the new discovery is the emotional connection to the heart of the native galaxy. Agree, there is something exciting in the fact that for the first time in history, the world enjoys a snapshot of the center of the Milky Way. The results from the EHT team are published in a special issue of the scientific journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

A short story about the shooter A * black hole in a picture

The EHT team is now working to expand the telescopic network and is carrying out upgrades such as in the future will allow you to get even more amazing pictures and even movies about black holes. According to the researchers, the work unites the project: languages, continents and even galaxies can not stand in the way of humanity’s great potential. After all, in order to achieve revolutionary discoveries, we must work together and work for the common good. Do you agree?

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