This is the supermassive black hole that lives at the centre of our galaxy, pictured for the very first time. Known as Sagittarius A*, the object is a staggering four million times the mass of our Sun.

What you see is a central dark region where the hole resides, circled by the light coming from super-heated gas accelerated by immense gravitational forces.

The mass of a black hole determines the size of its accretion disc, or emission ring. The hole lives in the central brightness depression. Its “surface” is called the event horizon, the boundary inside which even a light-ray is bent back on itself by the curvature in space-time. Brighter regions in the accretion disc are where light gains energy as it moves towards us, and is said to be doppler boosted.

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.

Fortunately, this monster is a long, long way away – some 26,000 light-years in the distance – so there’s no possibility of us ever coming to any danger.

The image was produced by an international team called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration.

Source: NASA

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