New images offer the best ever proof that a supermassive black hole is lurking at the middle of our own galaxy.
The huge astronomical phenomenon and can be seen swirling around clumps of gas at the centre of the Milky Way, according to scientists.
Astronomers have long thought that there is a huge black hole hiding out in our own galaxy. But because they are entirely dark, it is difficult to actually spot it., and scientists continue to investigate how they are formed.
Now the new pictures from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) show clumps of gas swirling around at about 30% of the speed of light on a circular orbit just outside its event horizon.
It is the first time material has been observed orbiting close to the point of no return, and the most detailed observations yet of material orbiting this close to a black hole, scientists say.
Specialist equipment was used to take a close look at the infrared radiation coming from the accretion disc around Sagittarius A*, the massive object at the heart of the Milky Way.
The ESO said the observed flares provide long-awaited confirmation that the object in the centre of the galaxy is, as has long been assumed, a supermassive black hole.
The flares originate from material orbiting very close to the black hole’s event horizon – making these the most detailed observations yet of material orbiting this close to a black hole.
Reinhard Genzel, of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, who led the study, said: “This always was one of our dream projects but we did not dare to hope that it would become possible so soon.”
Additional reporting by agencies