Tuesday, 23 April, 2019

Astronomers to release first image of black hole

At the Event Horizon Astrophysicists Set to Reveal First At the Event Horizon Astrophysicists Set to Reveal First
Sandra Phillips | 10 April, 2019, 07:10

Images of SgrA are likely to show a lopsided ring of brightness due to gravity bending light closer to the black hole more strongly than light further away.

If the group has succeeded, the results will mark a significant milestone in astrophysics that could challenge or confirm some of the major theories that underpin our understanding of the cosmos, including Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.

A black hole is a celestial object that compresses a huge mass into an extremely small space.

In space, black holes are massive objects with gravity so strong that they can bend space and time to the breaking point.

Although black holes have been depicted in film and television works such as the 2014 movie "Interstellar", their true appearances are still a mystery. One is that their gravitational pull makes it impossible for light to escape.

It is located some 50 million light years from our planet, in the heart of a galaxy called M87.

Instead, scientists are aiming for images of the event horizon, the precipice of the black hole known as the "point of no return", and the gas and dust that settles into orbit around the hole, according to Science News.

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"The first direct image of a black hole would be absolutely groundbreaking", said Meg Urry, an astronomer at Yale University who has spent much of her career studying the indirect effects of the giant black holes thought to reside in the centres of most galaxies.

Alternatively, a press conference is being held by the European Commission, European Research Council, and the EHT project will also be livestreamed on the European Southern Observatory website here.

Simulation of a black hole's event horizon. Surrounded by bright gas and swirling material, Sagittarius A* has a mass that is equivalent to 4.1 million suns.

The first target is Sagittarius A, the site of a supermassive black hole 26,000 light years away from Earth, and the second is at the center of a galaxy known as M87. When put together, the eight telescopes create "a virtual Earth-sized telescope", according to the project. Each telescope has been synchronized to collect several petabytes of data that will be combined with the help of a very powerful supercomputer to create the first image of Sagittarius A. To put that into perspective, an article by Computer Weekly notes that one petabyte would be enough to store the DNA data of every person in the USA and then to clone them twice.

So what does this all mean?

One of the aspects of a black hole that scientists are most eager to analyze is the shape of its silhouette.

"The shape of the shadow will be nearly a ideal circle in Einstein's theory", Psaltis stated, adding, however, that "if we find it to be different than what the theory predicts, then we go back to square one and we say, 'Clearly, something is not exactly right, '" cited by Reuters.

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