It’s long been suspected that a black hole sits in the center of our Milky Way galaxy, and for the first time ever, astronomers have just taken an actual photo of that black hole. Outer space is an endless void of one fascinating thing after the other. Be it alien planets, giant stars, jaw-dropping nebulae, or faraway galaxies, there’s always something in the universe to gawk at.
More so than anything else, black holes are among the most amazing. They’re parts of the universe where gravity is so incredibly strong that everything is swept up into it — even surrounding light. Astronomers are aware of black holes and know that they exist, but actually studying one is difficult. It wasn’t until 2019 that astronomers shared the first picture of a black hole.
Related: How Many Black Holes Are In The Universe? 40,000,000,000,000,000,000
Fast forward to 2022, and astronomers have now successfully captured the first photo of the black hole residing in our own Milky Way galaxy. The photo (seen above) was captured by a team working with the Event Horizon Telescope — the same telescope system that captured the first black hole photo in 2019. On its own, the image doesn’t look like much. There’s a bright orange circle, a dark center, and pitch blackness surrounding the whole thing. But that blurry photo marks the first time humans have ever seen what the Milky Way’s black hole looks like.
Why This Photo Of Our Black Hole Is Important
As you might expect, capturing a picture like this was far from simple. Astronomers linked the Event Horizon Telescope network with eight other radio observatories scattered across Earth. Combined, the telescopes formed one ‘Earth-sized’ telescope working as a single unit. After observing the black hole for multiple days and nights, we got the new photo everyone’s raving about.
If this isn’t what you expected our galaxy’s black hole to look like, that’s because this isn’t the actual black hole. By nature, black holes are impossible to photograph. Since they’re just a void of blackness, snapping a photo of one isn’t exactly easy. What you see in this picture is the glowing gas around the black hole. The ‘shadow’ sits in the center of the orange gas that’s forming in a ring-like shape. As the Event Horizon Telescope website explains, “The new view captures light bent by the powerful gravity of the black hole, which is four million times more massive than our Sun.”
Along with being stunning to look at, this photo also marks a considerable step forward in better understanding the galaxy we all call home. Project Scientist Geoffrey Bower, who helped pull this off, says it best: “We were stunned by how well the size of the ring agreed with predictions from Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. These unprecedented observations have greatly improved our understanding of what happens at the very center of our galaxy, and offer new insights on how these giant black holes interact with their surroundings.”