Milky Way's black hole centre: First-ever image is stunning scientific achievement with a lesson for us all – Scotsman comment

If you’re not that impressed by the first-ever picture of the black hole at the centre of our galaxy, then it may be you haven’t quite grasped the gravity of the situation.

The first image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way (Picture: Nasa via Getty Images)
The first image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way (Picture: Nasa via Getty Images)

Joking aside, this is a hugely significant scientific discovery which could help shed light on some of the most fundamental questions about the universe.

While the black hole itself cannot be seen – it is so massive that not even light can escape its gravity – the image shows the tell-tale signature of this mysterious and powerful celestial body with a dark central region surrounded by a “bright, ring-like structure”.

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Fortunately for we fellow inhabitants of the Milky Way, Planet Earth is 27,000 light-years away from the black hole, called Sagittarius A*, so it poses no threat.

But what it does do is help scientists gain greater understanding of the laws of nature. “We were stunned by how well the size of the ring agreed with predictions from Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity," said Geoffrey Bower, one of the scientists involved in the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration.

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Before the image was taken, we did not even know for sure there was a black hole at the heart of the Milky Way.

And, as with most important scientific work, it involved an international team. In fact, the EHT is effectively a planet-sized telescope, made up of observatories in the South Pole, North and South America, Hawaii and Europe.

So, in a way, by being so hard to spot, Sagittarius A* is teaching us a lesson: that when humanity works together in a spirit of co-operation, we are capable of truly great things.

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