Astronomers A Step Closer To Imaging Milky Way’s Black Hole

Posted: May 27 2018, 9:48am CDT | by , Updated: May 27 2018, 1:17pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Astronomers a Step Closer to Imaging Milky Way’s Black Hole
Schematic diagram of the 1.3 mm VLBI observations of Sagittarius A* at the center of Milky Way. Credit: Max Planck Society

The increased resolution provided by the APEX telescope reveals new and unprecedented details in the structure of black hole Sagittarius A*.

Researchers have long wanted to take a direct image of a black hole. Thanks to APEX radio telescope in Chile, they are getting closer to having one. The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) data combined with Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) could create the ultimate picture of the black hole shadow and reveal new details about the structure of Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy Milky Way. Other instruments have been able to observe the effects of a black hole on a visible matter like stars and planets. But so far, no one has ever actually seen the Milky Way's Supermassive black hole.

Researchers used a method called VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) to link a group of radio telescopes spread across the globe. VLBI measures the time difference between the arrivals of the radio signal at different telescopes. The participating telescopes are located at high altitudes. So, they can pick up desired radio waves among a barrage of background noise. Radio source Sgr A* was detected with all stations but the participation of APEX considerably improved its image quality.

"We have worked hard at an altitude of more than 5000 meters to install the equipment to make the APEX telescope ready for VLBI observations at 1.3 mm wavelength", said Alan Roy who leads the VLBI team at APEX. "We are proud of the good performance of APEX in this experiment."

The black hole at the center of our galaxy is embedded in a dense interstellar medium which may have affected the activity of electromagnetic waves along the line of sight. Researchers believe that future observations with more telescopes could be utilized to remove any ambiguity.

The new effort was focused on studying supermassive black holes with sufficient resolution to observe the event horizon directly. Event Horizon is a region of space around a black hole from which nothing (not even light) can escape.

"We started to figure out what the horizon-scale structure may look like, rather than just draw generic conclusions from the visibilities that we sampled,” said lead author Ru-Sen Lu from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany. “It is very encouraging to see that the fitting of a ring-like structure agrees very well with the data, though we cannot exclude other models, e.g., a composition of bright spots."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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