The black hole of the Milky Way comes to light

Dr. Özel said that the similarity of the new image to the one from 2019 showed that the previous image was not a coincidence. In an interview, Peter Galison, a Harvard physicist and historian and a member of the collaboration, noted that the black hole M87 was 1,500 times more massive than the Milky Way; typically in physics or astronomy, when something increases by a factor of 10 or more, everything changes. “The similarity across such an immense scale is amazing,” said Dr. Galison.

At Thursday’s news event, Michael Johnson, a member of the team and also of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, said, “This is an extraordinary verification of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.”

Black holes were an unintended consequence of the general theory of relativity, which attributed gravity to the warping of space and time by matter and energy, in the same way that a mattress sinks under a bed.

Einstein’s insights led to a new conception of the cosmos, in which space-time could shudder, bend, tear apart, expand, swirl, and even disappear forever into the jaws of a black hole, an entity with gravity so strong that not even light could escape. that.

Einstein disproved this idea, but it is now known that the universe is dotted with black holes. Many are the remains of dead stars that collapsed in on themselves and moved on.

But there seems to be a black hole at the center of almost every galaxy, including our own, which can be millions or billions of times the mass of our sun. Astronomers still don’t understand how these supermassive black holes have grown so large.

Paradoxically, despite their ability to swallow light, black holes are the most luminous objects in the universe. Materials (gas, dust, crushed stars) falling into a black hole are heated to millions of degrees in a dense maelstrom of electromagnetic fields. Some of that matter falls into the black hole, but some is pushed out by enormous pressures and magnetic fields.

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