Washington (AFP) – The world’s first image of a chaotic, chaotic black hole at the center of our Milky Way doesn’t depict a voracious cosmic destroyer but what astronomers on Thursday called a “gentle giant” on a diet close to starvation.
Astronomers believe that nearly all galaxies, including our own, have these giant black holes at their bustling and crowded center, where no light and matter can escape, making it extremely difficult to get images of them. The light is bent and twisted around by gravity as it is sucked into the abyss along with the protected gas and dust.
The color image unveiled Thursday is from the international consortium behind the Event Horizon Telescope, a group of eight synchronized radio telescopes around the world. Getting a good photo was a challenge; Previous efforts have found a black hole to be very fickle.
“It just made noise and gurgling when we looked at it,” said Ferial Ozil of the University of Arizona.
She called it a “gentle giant” while announcing the breakthrough with other astronomers involved in the project. The image also confirms Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity: a black hole is exactly the size that Einstein’s equations dictate. It is about the size of Mercury’s orbit around our sun.
Black holes gobble up galactic material, but Ozil said this “eats very little.” Another astronomer said it was equivalent to eating one grain of rice over millions of years.
“Pictures of black holes are the hardest thing to think of,” said astronomer Andrea Ges of the University of California, Los Angeles. She was not part of the telescope team and won the Nobel Prize To discover the black hole of the Milky Way in the 1990s.
She said the “My Baby” picture is exactly what it should be – an odd looking orange-red ring with absolute blackness in the middle.
Scientists expected the Milky Way’s black hole to be more violent, especially since the only other image of another galaxy shows a much larger and more active black hole.
“It’s the cowardly lion of black holes,” said project scientist Jeffrey C. Power of the Taiwanese Seneca Academic Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Because the black hole is “on a starvation diet,” Bauer said, little material falls into the center, and this allows astronomers to peer deeper.
The black hole of the Milky Way is called Sagittarius A (asterisk), near the border of the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpio. It is 4 million times larger than our sun. Perhaps more common for what’s at the center of most galaxies, Power said, “just sitting there doesn’t do much.”
It’s incredibly hot, Ozil said, trillions of degrees.
The same telescope group released the first image of a black hole In 2019. The image was from a galaxy 53 million light-years away which is 1,500 times larger than the one in our own galaxy. The Milky Way’s black hole is much closer, about 27,000 light-years away. A light year is 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).
To get the image, the eight telescopes had to closely coordinate “in a process similar to anyone shaking hands with everyone else in the room,” said astronomer Vincent Fish of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The astronomers worked with data collected in 2017 to obtain the new images. The next step, Fish said, is a movie of one of these black holes, possibly both.
The project cost nearly $60 million with $28 million from the US National Science Foundation.
Geese said that although it is quieter than expected, the center of the Milky Way is an important place to study.
It’s “like an urban downtown, everything is a bit more extreme. It’s crowded. We live in the suburbs (in the arm of a spiral galaxy). We live in the suburbs,” Geese said in an interview. Things are quiet here.”
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