Engineering 101

The First Image of the Milky Way’s Black Hole

Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are part of a large international collaboration that unveiled the first image proving a supermassive black hole spins at the center of the Milky Way. The partnership published their results in six papers included in a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Researchers indicated that glowing gas around it reveals a telltale signature – a dark central region, called a shadow, surrounded by a bright ringlike structure. The black hole is 4 million times more massive than our sun.

The new image follows the EHT collaboration’s 2019 release of the first image of a black hole, called the M87 star, at the center of the more distant Messier 87 galaxy. Scientists are particularly excited to finally have images of two black holes of very different sizes, which allows them to understand how they compare. They have also begun to use the new data to test theories and models of how gas behaves around supermassive black holes.

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