Meet Our Galaxy’s Massive Black Hole


| LAST UPDATE 05/18/2022

By Stanley Wickens
Milky Way Black Hole
remotevfx via Getty Images

The speculation that there might be a massive black hole lurking at the center of our galaxy isn't new. However, what had been missing from our research on the Milky Way was a glimpse of the black hole most of us grew up learning about. But recently, Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a global network that works to capture images of black holes, has achieved just that.

Known as Sagittarius A*, the tremendous black hole that lies in the center of our galaxy has a reportedly astonishing size that is four million times that of the Sun! In the images captured by EHT, we see a central dark area where the hole itself is, surrounded by the light resulting from super-heated gas moving at an ultra-fast speed due to massive gravitational forces. The diameter of the ring of light surrounding Sagittarius A* is approximately 60 million kilometers (40 million miles)! To get a better picture of just how gargantuan this black hole is, think of the closest planet to our Sun, Mercury, which lies between 40-70 million km from our main star...

NASA black hole Sagittarius
JOSE LUIS MAGANA / Contributor via Getty Images
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Seeing the colossal size of this recently photographed black hole in our own neighborhood, it's natural to panic a little. But don't worry! Fortunately, this marvel is a good 26,000 light-years away from us, so it's safe to say we'll never be in any danger of running into it. From such a safe distance, we can truly admire the wonders that exist in outer space. But it's not the only discovery of this kind humans have made: the image of Sagittarius A* comes after a picture of a giant black hole in another galaxy was captured in 2019. Located in a galaxy called Messier 87, that black hole was even larger than ours - with a mass that measured a staggering 6.5 billion times the size of our own Sun.

"But this new image is special because it's our supermassive black hole," explained Prof Heino Falcke, a German-Dutch scientist who was part of the EHT project. He told BBC News, "This is in 'our backyard', and if you want to understand black holes and how they work, this is the one that will tell you because we see it in intricate detail." As exciting as this recent milestone is, something tells us it's only the beginning. Stay tuned!

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