Black holes drifted out of the shadows at the end.
For the first time, humanity has photographed one of these difficult cosmic monsters, which has long shed light on an exotic space-time realm that is beyond our knee.
Sheperd Doeleman of Harvard University and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, today at the press conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, United States (10 April).
Doeleman directs the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, which captured the epic imagery. These four photos, which were unveiled today at press events around the world and in a series of papers, outline the contours of the monster black hole lurking at the heart of the elliptical galaxy M87.
The imagery is mind-blowing enough in its own right. But even more significant is the trail the new results will likely blaze, researchers said.
“There’s really a new field to explore,” Peter Galison, a professor of physics and the history of science at Harvard, said in an EHT talk last month at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. “And that’s ultimately what’s so exciting about this.”
Galison, who co-founded Harvard’s interdisciplinary Black Hole Initiative (BHI), compared the imagery’s potential impact to that of the drawings made by English scientist Robert Hooke in the 1600s. These illustrations showed people what insects and plants look like through a microscope.
“It opened a world,” Galison said of Hooke’s work.
A telescope the size of Earth
EHT is a consortium of more than 200 scientists working for nearly twenty years. This is really an international effort; Over the years, funding has come from the US National Science Foundation and many other organizations around the world.
The project takes its name from the unopened point of a black hole – nothing beyond it, the boundary where the object cannot escape the gravitational gravity without light.
Avi Loeb, head of Harvard’s astronomy department, the founding director of BHI, told Space.com, “The highest-level prison wall of the event horizon.” (Loeb is not part of the EHT team.) Ası Once you’ve entered, you’ll never get out. )
Therefore, it is impossible to photograph inside a black hole if you fail to get there in some way yourself. (You and your photos cannot go back to the outside world, of course.) Thus, the EHT displays the event horizon to reveal the dark silhouette of the black hole.
The project explores two black holes – the M87 behemoth, which is about 6.5 billion times the Earth’s sun, and the central black hole known as the Sagittarius A * of its Milky Way galaxy. This last object, though still a super-mass black hole, is an obstacle, compared to the monster of M87, which has only 4.3 million solar masses.
Both of these objects are tough targets because of their immense distance from Earth. Sagittarius A* lies about 26,000 light-years from us, and M87’s black hole is a whopping 53.5 million light-years away.
From our perspective, Sagittarius A*’s event horizon “is so small that it’s the equivalent of seeing an orange on the moon or being able to read the newspaper in Los Angeles while you’re sitting in New York City,” Doeleman said during the SXSW event last month.
No single telescope on Earth can make that observation, so Doeleman and the rest of the EHT team had to get creative. The researchers have linked up radio telescopes in Arizona, Spain, Mexico, Antarctica and other places around the world, forming a virtual instrument the size of Earth.