The Milky Way's Black Hole Comes to Light
Thursday May 12, 2022. 04:00 PM , from Slashdot
Astronomers announced today that they had pierced the veil of darkness and dust at the center of our Milky Way galaxy to capture the first picture of 'the gentle giant' dwelling there: A supermassive black hole, a trapdoor in space-time through which the equivalent of 4 million suns have been dispatched to eternity, leaving behind only their gravity and a violently bent space-time. From a report: The image, released in six simultaneous news conferences in Washington, D.C., and around the globe, showed a lumpy doughnut of radio emission framing an empty space as dark and silent as death itself. The new image joins the first ever picture of a black hole, produced in 2019 by the same team, which photographed the monster at the heart of the M87. The new image shows new details of the astrophysical violence and gravitational weirdness holding sway at the center of our placid-looking hive of starlight.
Black holes were an unwelcome consequence of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, which attributes gravity to the warping of space and time by matter and energy, much as a mattress sags under a sleeper. Einstein's insight led to a new conception of the cosmos, in which space-time could quiver, bend, rip, expand, swirl and even disappear forever into the maw of a black hole, an entity with gravity so strong that not even light could escape it. Einstein disapproved of this idea, but the universe is now known to be speckled with black holes. Many are the remains of dead stars that collapsed inward on themselves and just kept going. But there seems to be a black hole at the center of nearly every galaxy, ours included, that can be millions or billions of times as massive than our sun. Astronomers still do not understand how these supermassive black holes have grown so big.
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