A “groundbreaking announcement” about the black hole in the center of our galaxy is expected on May 12th

The astronomers behind the publication of the iconic image of the black hole “M87”, the supermassive black hole in the galaxy Masser 87 in the constellation Virgo, did not stop at this feat. Since their unprecedented discovery in 2019, researchers from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have continued their research into black holes. But this time, they focused their efforts on observing the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, in search of supermassive black hole Sagittarius A.

>>> Read also: Will our Milky Way end up being hit by Andromeda?

Sagittarius A *: why is it so complex to observe it?

As a reminder, black holes are invisible because they absorb all types of electromagnetic radiation. The technique astronomers use to “visualize” a black hole is to focus on the “event horizon”. That is, the glowing outline of the black hole, where the light from the “growth disk” – a cloud of gas and dust orbiting the black hole – which is (irrevocably) absorbed by the gravitational forces of the black hole.

The unveiling of the image of the M87 had already established a milestone. “These data will make it possible to better simulate the behavior of the substance as it approaches the black hole and in particular to understand how it sometimes escapes it in the form of jets”, Frédéric Vincent, from the Paris Observatory, explained us in an article previously published by Science & Vie.

The EHT project consists of a set of telescopes in eight different locations around the world, including one in Antarctica. Its diameter thus reaches 10,000 kilometers. Although it is one of the most powerful telescopic arrays to date, observing a black hole is still extremely complicated. For example, the distance between Sagittarius A * and Earth reaches 26 thousand light-years. Succeeding at observing this black hole from a telescope on Earth can be compared to observing an object of one millimeter at a distance of 13 thousand kilometers – the distance between Paris and the southernmost point of Argentina, Tierra de Fuego).

Sagittarius A * is at the center of our galaxy and is much closer than M87. But with only 4.3 million solar masses, it is much smaller than the M87 and therefore harder to observe. In addition, the black hole in the center of our galaxy is surrounded by a dense cloud of dust and gas, making its observation particularly complex.

After the revolutionary image of the M87, and despite the complexity, will we have the right to a new image of a black hole? In any case, ESO and EHT had already used the word “revolutionary” in 2019, and they have planned a similar communication unit: enough to keep the tension going until 12 May.

How do you follow this message from ESO and EHT?

Join us on Thursday, May 12 at 15 (French time) to follow the press conference from ESO and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, where they plan to announce “groundbreaking results” regarding the discoveries of EHT on the Milky Way. The event will be streamed online worldwide from ESO’s headquarters in Munich, Germany, and can be viewed on ESO’s official website and YouTube channel.

>> Also read: What if our black hole was a space-time passage to another universe?

Originally published on 03/05/2022

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