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Watch Image of massive black hole at center of Milky Way captured by international team including UMass Amherst astronomers – US Latest Technology News Online
Astronomers in seven countries on Thursday unveiled an image of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy that devours any matter wandering within its gravitational pull.
Sagittarius A* is only the second black hole to be imaged by astronomers.
The feat was accomplished by the international Event Horizon Telescope team, who in 2019 revealed the first-ever image of a black hole in a distant galaxy. University of Massachusetts Amherst radio astronomers Gopal Narayanan and F. Peter Schloerb and graduate student Sandra Bustamante are part of the Event Horizon Telescope team.
“I think people are kind of excited about the concept of a black hole — it’s in literature, song and movies,” said Schloerb, director of the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory, following the streamed press conference.
Capturing an image of Sagittarius A* near the border of the Sagittarius and Scorpius constellations was a coordinated effort by eight synchronized radio telescopes around the world.
One of those telescopes, the Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano, is the world’s biggest single-dish telescope of its kind and played a crucial role in the discovery, Schloerb said. The Large Millimeter Telescope is jointly operated by UMass Amherst and the country of Mexico.
For a decade, UMass Amherst has been part of the effort to capture an image of a black hole near the center of the galaxy, Narayanan said.
Narayanan said he and his colleagues first saw the image of Sagittarius A* a year ago “but it was still not ready for prime time.”
Additional data and verification was necessary before it was shared with the public, he added.
Astronomers theorize nearly all galaxies have black holes at their center, where light and matter cannot escape, making it extremely hard to get images of them.
Sagittarius A* has 4 million times the mass of our sun and is located 26,000 light years, or about 5.9 trillion miles, from Earth. However, it is significantly smaller than the black hole in the Messier 87 galaxy, first imaged by the Event Horizon Telescope team in 2019. That black hole has 6.5 billion times the mass of our sun.
Messier 87 is in the constellation Virgo and located 55 million light years from Earth.
UMass Amherst’s involvement in capturing the image of the Messier 87 black hole resulted in it sharing the Breakthrough Prize for Fundamental Physics, sometimes referred to as the Oscars of science, in 2019.
The Sagittarius A* announcement was made at simultaneous news conferences in the United States, Germany, China, Mexico, Chile, Japan and Taiwan.
The project cost nearly $60 million, with $28 million coming from the U.S. National Science Foundation.
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