Japanese researchers have made a significant contribution to an international team that has allowed humanity to take a first look at a black hole.
The researchers helped visualize the data collected by a network of radio telescopes scattered around the world, which functioned effectively as a giant telescope the size of the Earth. They were also part of the team that was managing one of the telescopes.
One day after the publication of the image, the Secretary General of the Cabinet, Yoshihide Suga, described this achievement as "achievement of an era".
"This represents a further step forward in learning the characteristics of black holes," he said, adding, "I hope the research that will lead us to learn more about the nature of black holes," he said. the universe will continue to progress. "
Black holes, theorized by Albert Einstein about a century ago, have been confirmed by indirect evidence, but never by an image.
The photo of the supermassive black hole in a galaxy called Messier 87, revealed Wednesday by a team led by Sheperd Doeleman of Harvard University, has eliminated all doubts about the existence of black holes and strengthen theories based on their existence.
"He visually captured what had been said but which had never been seen by anyone. This is undoubtedly a Nobel Prize, "said Yoshiaki Taniguchi, a professor of galactic astronomy at the Open University of Japan shortly after the announcement.
Capturing the black hole at some 55 million light-years was a monumental task, compared to looking for a tennis ball on the moon at the naked eye.
A radio telescope with a larger satellite dish can collect more data and give a more accurate picture of the black hole, but the size of the dish is limited. The international team has created a network of eight radio telescopes around the world, using a method known as very long-base interferometry, to overcome this limitation.
But because some radio waves are out of range, the team used statistics to estimate missing data.
Mareki Homma of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and other Japanese researchers have used what is called sparse modeling to develop a method of data processing to gather images.
Kotaro Moriyama, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the Japanese team was assured of the credibility of the data obtained by generating images of 60,000 different ways.
Japan also collaborated with the operations team of ALMA, a giant telescope in Chile, one of eight telescopes participating in the network.
By combining forty antennas of 12 meters in diameter each, Chilean researchers have created a large radio telescope 70 meters in diameter.
As the telescope is located in a desert at 5,000 meters altitude, where the low atmospheric pressure prevents the operation team from using hard drives to read the data, l & # 39; s 39; The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan has also provided the necessary technologies to send the data to a nearby facility. lower altitude using fiber optic cables.