16 July 2018

South Africa: Snapshot of Centre of the Milky Way Reveals Clearest Ever Image of Supermassive Black Hole

Photo: SKA Africa
This image, based on observations made with South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope, shows the clearest view yet of the central regions of our galaxy.
analysis

In the months and years to come, the data used to build a picture of the centre of the Milky Way will be analysed and academic papers written, as astronomers work at answering some of our galaxy's deeper secrets.

Fernando Camilo knew he had a kick-ass picture when he found everyone talking about it at the printing shop.

"I went to the store to pick up the banner, several people from that store in Cape Town were like saying, 'What is this? This is amazing'," recalls Camilo, chief scientist at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Camilo and his colleagues had realised that with the launch of the MeerKat telescope coming up, they had to show the world, the gathered politicians and media something special.

The idea was to take a snapshot of the centre of the Milky Way galaxy.

It had been done before, but no one had got it quite right. The spot is difficult to capture; there are clouds of gas and dust in the way that obscure it from ordinary telescopes.

"This is a really...

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