Astronomers have unveiled the first wild but fuzzy image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy.
Nearly all galaxies, including our own, are believed to have these giant black holes at their center, where light and matter cannot escape, making it extremely hard to get images of them.
The image released Thursday was made by eight synchronized radio telescopes around the world. This is not the first picture of a black hole.
The same international group released the first one in 2019 from a distant galaxy.
University of Arizona astrophysicists tell us they’ve been waiting for this moment for more than two decades.
Dimitrios Psaltis and Feryal Ozel, Professors of Astronomy and Physics at UArizona, are among those who say it’s an achievement that has made all the sleepless nights worthwhile.
“We often say seeing is believing and seeing with an astronomical instrument, makes you believe all of these things are actually real,” said Psaltis.
This black hole image certainly is real, and now available for the world to see.
“It’s amazing,” added Ozel.
The two are a part of the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHT), made up of more than 300 researchers. It’s the collaboration that captured this image.
“From the very beginning, that collaboration was put together in order to take pictures of black holes.”
Psaltis and Ozel met more than 20 years ago, because of their passion to capture images of black holes. They have been married for the last 21 years.
Thursday marks a very emotional day for them, as they see decades of their hard work finally paying off.
They say it takes a telescope the size of the Earth to produce this picture.
Fortunately, EHT spearheaded the effort to put up telescopes around the world, including in Arizona more than 20 years ago. A move that made this new image capturing the black hole in the center of the Milky Way possible.
“You marry the telescopes. It is a technique that has been developed in astronomy for a long period of time,” said Ozel.
While EHT has captured a picture of a black hole in 2019… “Today’s is our own black hole. It’s the Milky Way’s center Sagittarius A* and it has different properties than M87*...” Ozel told ABC15 with pride.
Psaltis and Ozel say they went in blind, when building the telescopes in hopes of confirming a theory Albert Einstein first made more than 100 years ago and:
“Guess what, it came out to be a donut with the hole in the middle. It’s a warping in space-time so strong that does not even let light escape from it. It has a point of no return, so anything that comes at it one way, cannot turn around and escape,” added Psaltis.
As far as our black hole’s distance from Earth, Ozel says it’s a way out.
“Quite far. It’s 26,000 light-years away. So definitely no danger of falling in,” she said.