Research

'Groundbreaking' photographs of a black hole to be released Wednesday

'Groundbreaking' photographs of a black hole to be released Wednesday

A team of 200 pioneering scientists from across the globe is preparing to push the limits of scientific achievement and attempt to answer two key questions: is it possible to photograph a black hole and, if so, was Einstein right?

Anticipation is building ahead of the event, which will feature simultaneous press conferences in cities across the world and live streams in different languages.

Black holes, coming in a variety of sizes, are extraordinarily dense entities formed when very massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycle.

The black hole in the centre of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A*.

Dr. Urry pointed out that evidence for the existence of black holes has mounted steadily since the 1960s, including the Nobel Prize-winning detection, in 2015, of vibrations in spacetime from two colliding black holes by the LIGO experiment. Theory states that the singularity is permanently hidden from view behind the "event horizon", defined as the radius within which nothing can leave the black hole.

The second - called M87 - resides at the center of the neighboring Virgo A galaxy, boasting a mass 3.5 billion times that of the sun and located 54 million light-years away from Earth. The facilities were in Arizona, Hawaii, Mexico, Chile, Spain and even the South Pole. That may sound big, but at a distance of 25,640 light-years, the observational challenge has been compared to counting the dimples on a golf ball in Los Angeles ... from a viewing spot in NY. Since then, telescopes in France and Greenland have been added to the network. There's a lot riding on what we see on Wednesday, and while we've seen black holes in science fiction for decades, we might be in for a surprise. In an email, Agol also noted that a colleague of his at UW, Bruce Balick, was in on the discovery of Sagittarius A* 45 years ago. For the first time ever, astronomers will show the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy, a feat until recently thought impossible. (Seriously, just Google "black hole movies" to see the list).

More news: MPs and peers pass new law on blocking no-deal Brexit

"I am not involved in the EHT, so I haven't seen any of the results, but I am excited to see them!"

While this in itself reveals very little, the fact it is a major EHT announcement will surely lead to the reveal of only one thing: our very first clear image of the event horizon of a black hole.

A black hole is a celestial object that compresses a huge mass into an extremely small space. With a limited number of participating telescopes, even VLBI can take you only so far.

Over the observation period, astronomers with the EHT collected about a petabyte of data.

Here on Earth, the prospect of seeing a black hole for the first time is having a similar effect on the media's ability to contain its enthusiasm for what promises to be one of the biggest science stories of the year.


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