The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has done it again.
The scientists who in 2019 gave us our first-ever direct image of a black hole are back with results a little closer to home. During joint news conferences held around the world today (May 12), Event Horizon Telescope scientists unveiled our first view of the supermassive black hole at the heart of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
“Today the EHT is delighted to share the first image of the gentle giant at the center of our galaxy,” Feryal Özel, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, said this morning during a news conference held by the U.S. National Science Foundation, which contributes funding to the EHT.
Related: Here’s how scientists turned the world Into a telescope (to see a black hole)
For years, scientists have believed that at the center of the Milky Way lurks a supermassive black hole dubbed Sagittarius A*. But black holes are elusive, and because these objects don’t emit any light, astronomers have to get creative to study them.
That said, the newly revealed image is based on observations of light — the light emitted by matter that’s heated up as it races toward the black hole’s maw. This technique gives scientists a view of essentially the shadow of the black hole.
And even that not-quite-direct observation is incredibly difficult. The Event Horizon Telescope is a global network of observatories that coordinates to act like a telescope the size of Earth.
In conjunction with the new image, scientists working on the project have also released six papers analyzing the results. We’ll be updating this story throughout the day as we follow today’s developments.