Astronomers May Have Finally Taken First Real Image Of Black Hole

Posted: Apr 13 2017, 6:58am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 13 2017, 7:04am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Astronomers may have Finally Taken First Real Image of Black Hole
An illustration of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Credit: NRAO, AUI, NSF

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It will take months to develop the image, but if scientists succeed the results may help test many wild theories about black holes

Astronomers from six locations around the world have spent many restless nights pointing their telescopes towards a supermassive black hole that lies in the center of galaxy Milky Way. And now they believe they have got the first-ever actual image of a black hole.

By turning the Earth into one giant telescope through connecting eight radio observatories, researchers peered into black hole called Sagittarius A* that is approximately 26,000 light-years from Earth and is 4 million times more massive than our sun.

To image something at this distance means that astronomers require a telescope equal to the size of Earth, which is not practically possible. So, they decided to coordinate the measurements collected from radio telescopes at different parts of the world and stitch them together to create first ever image of a black hole. This collaborative effort is named the Event Horizon Telescope.

“Instead of building a telescope so big that it would probably collapse under its own weight, we combined eight observatories like the pieces of a giant mirror," said Michael Bremer, an astronomer at the International Research Institute for Radio Astronomy (IRAM) and a project manager for the Event Horizon Telescope.

"This gave us a virtual telescope as big as Earth—about 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) is diameter.”

Black holes are some of the most mysterious object in the universe. They cannot be observed directly because they are dark. Their pulling force of gravity is so strong that even light could not escape them. Due to these limitations, researches have been forced to study black holes by observing their effect on matter close to them. While they know that black holes exist, their origin, evolution and influence in the universe always remained uncertain.

But now researchers have a method to study black hole in detail. The Event Horizon Telescope uses a technique called interferometry, which combines the radio waves detected by pairs of telescopes. These waves could help create the physical features of un-seeable black holes.

“For the first time in our history, we have the technological capacity to observe black holes in detail.” Bremer said.

The virtual telescope was switched on April 5 and has been collecting data ever since. Though actual images may not be processed and ready for publishing until next year, their simulations will be sufficient enough to provide clues on their basic structure. However, several theories about black holes will be tested once the images emerge.

"The images will emerge as we combine all the data," said Bremer. "But we're going to have to wait several months for the result."

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