The first-ever image of the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole was revealed Thursday, providing the first direct visual evidence of “the gentle giant” that lies at the center of our galaxy.
Known as Sagittarius A*, the object is a staggering four million times the mass of our Sun.
The photo, which shows an oval-shaped void surrounded by a bright ring of glowing gas, is only the second image captured of a black hole, and is the first to provide a detailed glimpse of the immense feature.
For scale, the ring is roughly the size of Mercury’s orbit around our star.
That’s about 60 million km, or 40 million miles, across.
Black holes are extraordinarily dense objects with gravity so strong that not even light can escape, making viewing them extremely challenging. A black hole’s event horizon is the point of no return beyond which anything – stars, planets, gas, dust and all forms of electromagnetic radiation – gets dragged into oblivion.
Fortunately, this monster is a long, long way away – some 27,000 light-years in the distance – so there’s no possibility of us ever coming to any danger.