First Ever Image of a Gaseous Ring Circling Our Galaxy's Black Hole
For the first time ever, astronomers have managed to capture the image of a cool gaseous ring circling our galaxy's black hole.
The researchers reported their images on June 5 in the journal Nature.
The ring is made up of a combination of stars, dust and gases, better known as an accretion disk. These surround most black holes.
For example, the Milky Way's black hole extends to a point where light can't even escape its black hole's grasp.
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Up until now, scientists believed that the types of gases that make up the accretion disk were extremely hot, at around 18 million degrees Fahrenheit. We agree, that's rather hot.
However, this accretion disk has cooler hydrogen gases, at 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit - which hadn't been captured as an image before.
The radiation in the area means that hydrogen atoms lose and gain electrons at a constant rate, which in turn releases weak radio waves. It was these weaker radio waves that the team discovered.
The discovery was made in the Atacama Desert observatory in Chile, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA).
The cool hydrogen ring is currently around one hundredth of a light-year away from the black hole's event horizon. Moreover, it boasts an amount of hydrogen the equivalent to one tenth of Jupiter's entire mass.
It is clear that the gas is rotating around the black hole due to what is called the "Doppler effect".
This effect creates a blue hue to the light of the objects rotating towards our planet, whereas those moving away from it, look more red.
"We hope these new ALMA observations will help the black hole give up some of its secrets," the lead author Elena Muchikova, an astrophysicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, said in the statement.
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