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Scientists take a picture of a black hole in the center of our galaxy

Scientists take a picture of a black hole in the center of our galaxy

Scientists from the EHT (Event Horizon Telescope), an international collaboration of telescopes and radio observatories, were able to capture the clearest image ever of a black hole in the middle of the Milky Way, the galaxy where the Solar System and, therefore, our planet is located.

An image of Sagittarius A*, as the black hole has been named, was announced Thursday (12) at an international event with scientists from the EHT and ESO (European Southern Observatory).

“We were impressed by the size of the ring [do buraco negro] It agrees with the predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, EHT project scientist Jeffrey Bauer said in a press release. “These unprecedented observations have improved our understanding of what is happening at the center of our galaxy and offer a new understanding of how these black holes interact with their surroundings.”

Looking at the picture, those who do not follow astronomy may find it strange, due to its rather inconspicuous properties. This is because this “image” was the result of thousands of shots taken, with different directions of the black hole’s movement and changing bright spots. “It’s like you want to take a clear picture of a dog that wants to grab your tail,” Chi Kwan Chan, a scientist at EHT, told AFP.

In short, black holes are space objects that are very dense and have a gravitational pull so strong that neither light nor matter can escape from them. Something that has always intrigued scientists is the study of the “event horizon” or the point of no return, which defines the region between space and inside a crater – once something gets in there, it can’t escape anymore.

Image of the ALMA Observatory, in the Atacama Desert (Chile), with the perspective of the black hole Sagittarius A*

Photo: Jose Francisco Salgado/ESO and EHT

What is particularly striking about Sagittarius A* is its proximity to the Earth. while the The black hole M87 was discovered in 2019 (and its image went viral at that time) It is more than 50 million light years from Earth, the announcement in today’s announcement is only 27,000 light years away.

Not to mention that the bow A* is much smaller than the M87*. The mass in our “backyard” is 4 million times the mass of the Sun, while the second is about 7 billion times the mass of the Sun. One of the challenges of capturing her image was her small size, which brought together several telescopes scattered across the Earth.

On the left, an image of the black hole M87*, discovered in 2019, and on the right, Sagittarius A*, located in the center of our galaxy - EHT - EHT

On the left, an image of the black hole M87*, discovered in 2019, and on the right, Sagittarius A*, which is in the center of our galaxy.

Photo: EHT

Because black holes do not emit light, the biggest challenge in getting an image of them is capturing the “silhouette” created by the gravitational bending of light in intense gravity. For this reason, the only way to get a “picture” of it is to use the microwave spectrum, combining the power of different observatories.

What is important in getting an image of two black holes, at such distant locations and at different sizes, is to understand precisely the difference in behavior between them.

“We have images of two black holes, so we can go further in testing gravitational behavior in these extreme environments,” EHT scientist Keiichi Asada said in a statement.

Scientists will now study new theories and models for how gas behaves around these black holes. This is an unknown process and it is believed that it could help understand the formation and evolution of galaxies. In addition, experts will be able to explore phenomena such as distortions of space-time near a supermassive object, which were predicted by the general theory of relativity formulated by Albert Einstein in 1915.

Giant team collaborate to take the photo

EHT is an international network of eight radio astronomical observatories, including one located in the Sierra Nevada (Spain) and the other in the Atacama Desert (Chile).

The image shown is the result of several hours of observation conducted primarily in 2017, as well as five years of calculations and simulations by more than 300 researchers from 80 institutes.

The surrounding gas needs only 12 minutes to orbit this galactic object, at nearly the speed of light, while in the case of M87* it takes two weeks. This means that the luminosity and composition of the gas changed very rapidly during observation.

With information from Agence France-Presse

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