Black hole captured by Event Horizon Telescope – from National Science Foundation.
This black hole resides 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5-billion times that of the Sun.
On Wednesday 10th April 2019 a collaboration of several scientists from around the world is expected to release the first ever images of the event horizon of a black hole. These images will be constructed from data collected from global observatories, which combined together create a virtual telescope as big as the Earth. They captured enough data to release the silhouette from the supermassive black hole located at the centre of our galaxy. (see above)
Suitably named the Event Horizon Telescope, the images it will relay should shed some light on the nature of these events; how they are formed and shaped and how some become millions if not billions of times the mass of our Sun. An Event Horizon Telescope project scientist, Dimitrios Psaltis has stated “By taking a picture very, very close to the event horizon, we can now start exploring our theories of what happens when I throw matter onto a black hole.”
What are Black holes?
Black holes are believed to be places in space, areas of space time, where the gravitational pull is so great that nothing can escape; particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light. The gravity is so strong because according to the theory of general relativity it is predicted that matter is squeezed into such a tiny space or mass that it actually deforms space time; forming a black hole.
Because no light can escape, black holes are not visible to the human eye. Specially designed telescopes along with their specialised tools, help to locate these strange scientific phenomena.
It is thought that some black holes maybe as small as just one atom. A “stellar” black hole can be up to about twenty times the mass of our Sun. The largest black holes are referred to as “supermassive”, believed to have masses of in excess of one million suns together. A notional boundary around these black holes is referred to as an “event horizon”.
In April 2017 the Event Horizon Telescope observed two black holes. A supermassive black hole at the centre of our Milky Way, Sagittarius A* or SgrA* and M87 thought to be located at the centre of a nearby galaxy Virgo. Both are believed to be incredibly dense, Sgra* possibly four million times more massive than our Sun and thirty times larger. According to the collaboration of scientists, for telescopes on Earth, the black hole appears to be the size of a small ball on the Moon’s surface due to the fact that it is actually so far away, about 26,000 light years!
Each of the global telescopes measured radiation coming from the dust and gas thought to surround black holes. The temperatures can reach billions of degrees therefore emitting lots of radiation, observable to the team on Earth. The data collected was then inputted and combined into a supercomputer, producing images that looked as though it came from a single, giant telescope.
As Psaltis said “This is a picture you would have seen if you had eyes as big as the Earth and were observing in radio”
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