STORY: Scientists on Thursday provided the first look at a black hole - one they called the "gentle giant" - lurking at the center of the Milky Way.
The supermassive black hole devours any matter wandering within its gravitational pull. The image shows a ring of bright orange light surrounding darkness.
It is only the second black hole ever imaged.
The feat was accomplished by the same Event Horizon Telescope international collaboration that in 2019 unveiled the first-ever photo of a black hole, in a different galaxy.
University of Arizona astronomer Feryal Özel, at a news conference in Washington, D.C., said the area has been an intense focus of astronomers for decades.
"Observations of stars orbiting around it revealed the presence of an object that is very massive, 4 million times the mass of our sun, but also very faint.”
Black holes are extraordinarily dense objects with gravity so strong that not even light can escape, making them difficult to view.
A black hole's event horizon is the point of no return beyond which anything - including stars and planets - gets dragged into oblivion.
Astrophysicist Michael Johnson called the black hole "ravenous but inefficient," eating relatively little matter.
"First, we see that only a trickle of material is actually making it all the way to the black hole, if this energy star were a person it would consume a single grain of rice every million years.”
Özel said it was a gentler, more cooperative black hole than they had hoped for.
“For me personally, I met it 20 years ago and have loved it and tried to understand it since."
The new image, she said, is the first picture confirming that Sagittarius A* is indeed a black hole.