We may have the first image close to a black hole next week


Sagittarius A *, of which we are almost sure, is a black hole.
Image: NASA (Wikimedia Commons)

The Event Horizon Telescope telescope network, responsible for observing supermassive black holes in the center of the galaxies, is expected to publish its first results at a public press conference next week.

We do not know what the results will be, but they have the potential to completely change the worldview.

"The horizon of events black holes represents the limits of our knowledge," said this week in Gizmodo, Priyamvada Natarajan, professor of astronomy and physics at Yale University. "For me, [the Event Horizon Telescope] is almost a precise piece of what the human mind is capable of. I have an emotionally excited reaction to all this. "

Black holes are objects so compact and dense that they contain a region in their gravitational field, their event horizon, beyond which the space is so distorted that light can not be seen. # 39; escape. We have tons of evidence of the existence of black holes, ranging from bursts of radiation emitted by the galactic centers to space-time ripples called gravitational waves. But we have never seen one close.

This is the objective of the Event Horizon telescope, which operates on a principle called Very Long Base Interferometry (VLBI). The "telescope" is actually a collaboration between telescopes from all over the world, from the United States to Chile to Chile, all of which observe the same distant object at the same time. The data is collected in a central location and decoded to produce higher resolution images than would be possible with a single telescope. It's like turning the entire Earth into a big telescope. The increase in resolution is mind-boggling. Hopefully the telescope will be able to solve the center of the galaxy, a region more than 25,000 light-years away that is only about the size of Mercury's orbit around the Sun.

Up to now, the telescope's observation targets are Sagittarius A *, a region of our radio-transmitting galaxy that looks a lot like a supermassive black hole of a mass four times higher. to that of the Sun, as well as in the center. from the M87 galaxy, where there is probably another supermassive black hole, this one about 7 billion times the mass of the Sun and spitting a jet of high energy matter.

This week, the National Science Foundation announced that it would hold a press conference in Washington, DC and the simultaneous press conferences in Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo, to announce "a revolutionary result." I do not know what this result will be – and I would rather not feed the hype – but if the result is what we hope, it will be incredible, perhaps showing the darkness that the black hole creates against the backdrop of the cosmos. This would become one of the most important images of scientific history.

To give an overview of what I'm talking about last year, Avery Broderick, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo, sent us a simulation of what a black hole observed by the ISE might look like:

A simulation of a black hole observed by the EHT.
Image: Avery Broderick

Grant Tremblay, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysics Center, serving on a committee that approved an ESH upgrade, told Gizmodo by phone that the shadow was omnipresent. "If we see a shadow like we should, it's going to be really exciting, a confirmation that although we do not know how nature works, we're on the right track."

But we do not know yet what this will show. If it shows something different from the expectations of astronomers, it would be so exciting. Whatever the outcome, scientists are excited about all the questions and potential areas of research that will emerge from the publication of the data.

I try to treat all this with cautious optimism because, again, we do not know what kind of images we will see next week. But when scientists organize big international press conferences, like this one, it's usually because they have big results.

The press conference will start on April 10th at 9:00 am EDT and we will definitely cover it here on Gizmodo.

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