Sunday, 21 July, 2019

Astronomers capture first-ever image of a black hole

Scientists have obtained the first image of a black hole using Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87 Black hole seen for first time in image showing matter being sucked into timeless oblivion
Sandra Phillips | 11 April, 2019, 23:58

Black holes are not easy to capture on camera because they are surrounded by thick dust material and extremely hot gases.

Scientists shared a ground-breaking photo of a black hole on Wednesday, partly thanks to an algorithm created by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate. Though Bouman was one of several women who worked on the Event Horizon Telescope team, the majority of her colleagues on the project were men.

The data collected was equivalent to a lifetime collection of selfies from 40,000 people, said discovery team member Daniel Marrone of the University of Arizona. Well-designed algorithms had to crunch through the chaos. And after the image was unveiled to the world on Wednesday, Bouman began earning accolades from fellow scientists, historians and politicians for her significant achievement.

The M87 black hole observed by the scientific team resides about 54 million light-years from Earth and boasts an almost-unimaginable mass of 6.5 billion times that of the sun.

Q: You're not an astronomer.

"The gravitational pull of a black hole is so strong nothing can escape, nothing can ever get out of it". I did my PhD in a computer vision group, where you try to understand images. Her background was in computer science and electrical engineering, and she got involved in the project while pursuing a PhD in computer vision.

The black hole in M87 isn't the closest to Earth, but it's among the biggest, which made it a very promising target for the EHT, Derek Fox, an associate professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University, told Live Science (Fox was not affiliated with the EHT discovery).

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"We have taken the first picture of a black hole - a one-way door out of our universe", Doeleman said. It's not really rational since I know the math works and the theory has been thoroughly tested. "We would never be able to see into the center of our galaxy in visible wavelengths because there's too much stuff in between". "And how can we come up with unique ways to merge the instrumentation and algorithms to get at measuring things that you can't measure with standard instruments".

Q: What was the algorithm's role for this image, stitching together data from telescopes across the planet? Basically, the likelihood of it coming anywhere near us is zero, in case that was something you were anxious about. But how do you get all that data to the correlation teams in the USA and Germany? It's nearly like seeing one pixel in an image (but it's in a different kind of domain).

The data from the telescopes around the world was gathered two years ago, but it took years to complete the processing of the data.

What we have to end up doing is imposing things called "regularizors" or "priors" that allow us to say, "Okay, of all of the images that possibly could fit this data, this set of images is most likely".

But the danger is we don't want to inject additional information into the problem, so as to bias our result toward something that we would expect to see.

Does a black hole seem like the internet's usual meme fodder?

That shadow is revealed in the center of today's picture. It was probably the most exciting moment I've ever had with the project. But when the scientists fed the real telescope data back through the pipelines developed for discs, they reconstructed a ring.

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