The black hole at the center of our galaxy has been photographed for the first time, giving scientists insight into how black holes interact with their surroundings.
The team that took the first-ever picture of a black hole inside the M87) galaxy is the same one that captured Sagittarius A*. Although the hole is completely dark, it is surrounded by a bright ring of glowing gas that has been warped by its own gravity.
While the team acknowledged the visual similarities between the new picture and the M87* image, the mass of the two black holes and the types of galaxies surrounding them are very different. The researchers were able to figure out that Sagittarius A*, which sits at the center of our small spiral galaxy, consumes gas at a much slower rate than M87, which resides at the center of a giant elliptical galaxy.
“If Sagittarius A* were the size of a doughnut, M87* would be the size of the Allianz Arena, the Munich football stadium just a few kilometers from where we are today,” Sara Issaoun, NASA Einstein fellow at the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told a press conference at the European Southern Observatory in Germany. “This similarity reveals to us a key aspect of black holes no matter their size or the environment they live in. Once you arrive at the edge of a black hole, gravity takes over.”