A black hole is an enormous amount of matter so dense that it creates a gravitational field powerful enough that even light can not escape it. Although scientists made various theoretical drawings and predictions about what a black hole looks like, it was only last Wednesday that they were able to get a real picture of this black hole.
On Wednesday, scientists at the Horizon Telescope Organization Event announced that they captured the image of a black hole located in the Messier 87 galaxy, nearly 55 million light-years away from Earth.
Professors Paul Teukolsky, Professor of Physics and Astrophysics Hans A. Bethe, and Professor Dong Lai, Astronomy, expressed their enthusiasm for how this development can influence and advance the gravitational wave research at Cornell.
The image of the black hole is the "first direct image of this central engine capable of propelling violent events in the center of a galaxy," according to Teukolsky, confirming the model long used by astrophysicists. The model suggests that most galaxies have massive black holes in the center, and the nearby gas that accumulates on the black hole heats up and emits light and radio waves.
This breakthrough has been the culmination of the efforts of hundreds of scientists in the Event Horizon Telescope project, which uses eight radio telescopes in the world as a whole to work together in one system.
"This observation was extremely difficult, because the diameter of the black hole is very small compared to its distance. The challenge was like reading the date of a quarter of Ithaca in Los Angeles, "said Teukolsky.
Being able to photograph the black hole is not a new technique in radio astronomy, but the black hole measurement is "one of the most advanced ever done," according to Teukolsky.
Lai hopes that "this is only the beginning" in the field of black hole imaging. By adding more telescopes to the matrix, "we can better solve the shape of the shadow … [and] study the behavior of this gas and its movement in the black hole. "
Lai and Teukolsky are also excited about ongoing developments in Cornell black hole research.
Lai said Cornell's astronomers and physicists are studying the merging of smaller black holes, which are circling the orbit and getting closer and closer. As a result, the orbit between the small black holes contracts and two black holes merge.
Teukolsky also explained Cornell's use of laser interferometer gravitational wave observatory data.
"LIGO detects the signals of the inspiration and fusion of two black holes in orbit. Our group in Cornell is solving Einstein's supercomputing equations to predict the details of the signals that LIGO should receive, and our predictions are used to help analyze the data, "said Teukolsky.
Teukolsky believes that the discoveries made by the Event Horizon telescope "will help to understand what is really happening with the accumulation of black holes in the center of galaxies" and that its impact far exceeds the simple scientist.
"We must not neglect the psychological impact of this image: many people, including physicists, have been reluctant to accept that an object as strange as a black hole may exist," he said. said Teukolsky. "But when you look at the picture, you really see gas in orbit … and in the center, it's black."
"This is an exciting time for studying black holes," said Lai. "We are only at the beginning of the black hole research."