Astronomers have revealed the first ever image of a black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
Scientists obtained the picture using the Event Horizon Telescope, and they unveiled it in a press conference Thursday with the U.S. National Science Foundation.
"Scientists had previously seen stars orbiting around something invisible, compact, and very massive at the center of the Milky Way," the NSF explained, and while this was thought to be a black hole, this image provided "the first direct visual evidence." The black hole, referred to as Sagittarius A, is about 27,000 light years from Earth.
This comes three years after the first image of a black hole in the Messier 87 galaxy was revealed in 2019, and the two black holes looked "remarkably similar" despite being very different in size, the NSF said.
"These unprecedented observations have greatly improved our understanding of what happens at the very center of our galaxy and offer new insights on how these giant black holes interact with their surroundings," EHT Project Scientist Geoffrey Bower said. Bower noted scientists were "stunned" by how much what they found fit with predictions from Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity.
Researchers from around the world worked together on the effort to obtain the image. NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan called the discovery a "historic moment" and a "testament to what we can accomplish, when as a global research community, we bring our brightest minds together to make the seemingly impossible, possible."