Area scientists celebrate first picture of a black hole

Rodiano Bonacci
Aprile 11, 2019

Event Horizon has ambitious plans to expand, adding new telescopes to the network that will boost its power, and hopefully, one day give it the ability to create videos of black holes in addition to the still images.

News conferences were held in Washington, Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo to disclose a "groundbreaking result" from the Event Horizon Telescope project, begun in 2012 to directly observe a black hole using a global network of telescopes and worldwide cooperation of more than 200 researchers. Furthermore, they are aiming to find out why supermassive black holes project subatomic particles out into the galaxy and universe.

So how on Earth did we get to this point?

Q: You're not an astronomer.

Things have come a long way since that pioneering insight.

Impressively, that image had detail on scales down to just nine times the size of the black hole's event horizon.

Being praised alongside the incredible photo is Katie Bouman, who created the algorithm that helped capture the black hole image when she was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology three years ago.

"Bouman prepared a large database of synthetic astronomical images and the measurements they would yield at different telescopes, given random fluctuations in atmospheric noise, thermal noise from the telescopes themselves, and other types of noise". It has a mass 6.5 billion times greater than Earth's sun.

Outside scientists suggested the achievement could be worthy of a Nobel, just like the gravitational wave discovery. The image even brings the opportunity to rethink established knowledge like Einstein's theory of general relativity. "The Einstein equations are handsome".

This term reflected the weird relative nature of time in Einstein's theory. At the event horizon, the infamous boundary of no return surrounding such a collapsed star, time will appear to freeze for an external observer.

Linked by a bunch of super-accurate atomic clocks, researchers manning each of the EHT's eight (black hole-observing) telescopes freeze light by collecting thousands of terabytes of data of space images.

Data collection for the historic black hole image began in 2017 with a coordinated effort called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT).

The picture shows the black hole having a dark center, encircled by a bright orange and yellow ring spreading outward.

But last summer, when the teams gathered at the Black Hole Initiative to share their findings, the startling similarities prompted an outpouring of celebration and awe. This is known as the black hole's shadow or silhouette.

In 1972, Robert Sanders and Thomas Lowinger calculated that a dense mass equal to about one million solar masses resides at the centre of our galaxy. The black hole at the center of M87 is surrounded by a glowing disc of hot gas and other material that heats up as it plummets into the black hole. He got involved after he joined the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA) as a postdoctoral fellow in 2016 and was among the first 20 people to see the images.

The supermassive black hole was officially revealed during today's joint press conference that was live-streamed across the globe.

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