Scientists could reveal the first photo of our galaxy’s central black hole on Thursday. Watch their announcement live.


  • Scientists could reveal the first-ever image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy on Thursday.
  • The National Science Foundation called the announcement a “groundbreaking discovery of the Milky Way.”
  • The black hole, called Sagittarius A*, has never been captured in detail before.

The scientists who revealed the first image of a black hole in 2019 have a major new announcement to make on Thursday.

They will not say what they have discovered. But after the snapshot of the first black hole, located in another galaxy, the collaboration began working on capturing images of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. They may reveal the very first image of our galaxy’s black hole, which is called Sagittarius A* (pronounced A-star) and has the mass of 4 million suns.

In a press release, the National Science Foundation teased a “groundbreaking discovery of the Milky Way” by the black hole-hunting collaboration, called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). At least seven research institutions across the planet will hold simultaneous press conferences to announce the discovery Thursday at 9 a.m. ET.

Watch the announcement live, in the video embedded below.

Sagittarius A* has never been captured in detail. At best, NASA’s Earth-orbiting Chandra Telescope spotted the bright X-rays around the black hole.

For any individual telescope, getting a clear close-up image of a black hole is impossible. To capture their first image in 2019, EHT researchers solved this problem by linking telescopes across the planet to focus on the same object all together, creating a virtual Earth-sized observatory.

Sagittarius A

The center of our galaxy, home to Sagittarius A*, captured by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

Nasa


Shep Doeleman, an astrophysicist at Harvard University and founding director of the EHT collaboration, told Insider in 2019 that the group was focusing its attention on Sagittarius A*, while branching out into a separate project, called Next Generation EHT. , to create the first video footage of a black hole.

The group would need to add more telescopes to its network and take advantage of new computing technology to process 10 times more data from those telescopes, Doeleman said at the time. By doing so, he estimated that they could capture video of both Sagittarius A* and their original photo subject, M87, in about five years.

Now it’s over two years later – too soon for video, according to Doeleman’s 2019 predictions, but potentially soon enough for a clear picture.

A representative for EHT declined to share further details ahead of Thursday’s announcement.

Videos would shed new light on how black holes eat

Eventually, the videos could reveal what a still image cannot: how black holes devour matter.

“We can see the black hole evolving in real time,” Doeleman said in 2019. “Then we can understand how it launches these jets that come from its north and south poles. We can see how it evolves with the galaxy. We We can even test Einstein’s gravity in a completely different way, by looking at the orbits of matter – not light, but matter – around the black hole.”

The first videos will likely be rudimentary, according to Doeleman, but further improvements would allow EHT to capture black holes in ever greater detail.

“They might be choppy. They might be low-res, but those would be the first steps,” Doeleman said in 2019, adding, “When we have 20 [telescope] dishes, it’s going to be such a big leap. It will give us the high fidelity movies we want to make.”


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