The first-ever image of a supermassive black hole loitering at the heart of the Milky Way was unveiled on Wednesday in Brussels at a Horizon Telescope press conference.
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a collaborative project that combines imagery collected by a network of telescopes from eight international observatories across the globe, has captured images of the huge black hole called Sagittarius A*.
"Michael Cramer here from the ERC said the history of science will be divided into the time before the image and the time after the image," Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation said at the presentation.
Professor Heino Falcke of Radboud University, the Netherlands unveiled what the black hole, which in reality was its shadow as light disappears behind it.
"It is like looking at the gates of hell," Falcke continued. "The end of space and time."
"It looks like a ring of fire,"the professor added.
Light circles the black hole revealing its diameter of 100 billion kilometers, Falcke said.
The ring was much brighter on its bottom side, which astrophysicist Monica Moscibrodzka said was because something was rotating within it which could be black matter or the black hole itself.
Black holes are objects that are so dense with a gravitational pull that is so strong that no object, not even light, can escape its force.
Often black holes are the result of another phenomenon known as Supernovas, which is when a star with a certain mass dies and generates a massive explosion.
One of the reasons this discovery is so fascinating is because black holes are invisible, but some telescopes have been capable of capturing imaging of other materials such as gas and stars interacting with black holes and thus hinting at their existence.
There are three types of black holes: primordial ones, the smallest, stellar black holes - medium sized ones which can be up to 20 times larger than the sun's mass-, and supermassive holes with a diameter that can reach the size of our solar system, according to Nasa.
Sagittarius A* has a mass that is 6.5 million times larger than the sun, which in black hole terms is quite modest, but still considerably larger than what scientists thought it was.
The European Space Organization have labeled it a "breakthrough discovery."
Although ESO confirmed the existence of the enormous black hole with images captured by the GRAVITY instrument on the Very Large Telescope in October, the existence of this mammoth object had already been deduced by scientists and been named Sagittarius A*.
The images captured in October revealed clumps of swirling gas orbiting the black hole mind-blowingly close to the hole's center, which is also known as the point of no return.
Something new images reveal are more accurate readings of the dimensions of the object, including the center's radius.
Luciano Rezzola said that the discovery's importance meant different things to different scientists.
However, all scientists agree that the capturing of this image means that what was once just a mathematical concept has been transformed into a physical object.
This transition means the object can now "be tested, measured and observed repeatedly which is a fundamental step in the scientific method," Rezzola added.
The unveiling of the visual proof of the existence of the hole was live-streamed from a Brussels press conference with partners also streaming the findings from across the world.
"I am proud of science today because it is giving a lesson to politicians," Moedas added.
"It is showing that today to take a picture of something that one man dreamt 100 years ago you need people from 40 different countries, you need people from all over the world, that at the same time that you are sitting here there are six press conferences in Washington, in Tokyo, in Taipei, in Shanghai, and in Santiago de Chile," the commissioner said.
"It is sad that sometimes facts are stranger than fiction, and nowhere is truer than in the case of black holes. Black holes are stranger than anything dreamt up by science fiction writers but they are firmly matters of scientific fact," Moedas quoted late physicist Stephen Hawking as saying. EFE-EPA