Scientists are set to unveil something “groundbreaking” about the center of the Milky Way this week, and it could involve our galaxy’s supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*.
On Thursday morning, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration will hold a press conference to announce what has been teased as “groundbreaking results about the center of our galaxy,” according to a statement from hurry.
No other information has been made public, so it’s unclear exactly what the announcement will be.
However, astronomers have been known to observe the black hole at the center of our galaxy known as Sagittarius A* for some time. Scientists know that Sagittarius A* is here and it’s about 4.3 million times bigger than the sun.
However, the black hole has remained elusive in many ways. It wasn’t until recently this year that astronomers were able to more accurately deduce how much of the mass at the center of our galaxy is occupied by Sagittarius A*, or about 99.9%. Scientists have never seen this black hole.
That could be about to change. Alberto Vecchio, professor of astrophysics and director of the Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy at the University of Birmingham in the UK, said Newsweek it’s possible that scientists are about to announce the first-ever image of Sagittarius A*. It would also be only the second direct image of a black hole after the one taken of M87 in 2019.
“I’m not a specific expert on these sightings, but that’s indeed what they’re gearing up for,” Vecchio said. “The results they published on M87 were already quite spectacular, but to some extent they were a stepping stone to arriving at the analysis of the galactic center. So I think it is perfectly conceivable that they present something similar thing for the galactic center.”
Black holes are notoriously hard to find because, by definition, light does not escape from them. Studying them more closely can reveal details about their two major characteristics; their mass and spin. Being able to learn more about these two parameters as they relate to Sagittarius A* would be “extremely important” and would teach us more about the processes at the center of our galaxy, Vecchio said.
It should be noted that this is still speculation and the press release will eventually reveal the true nature of the find. In any case, Vecchio said he and his colleagues had scheduled a group meeting at the time of the announcement and that he expects “spirited discussions” afterwards.
The NSF press conference is scheduled to take place May 12 at 9 a.m. ET at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and will also be streamed online on the NSF’s Facebook page and on its website, here.