Curated by RSF Research Staff
First ever black hole photoshoot is successful
Black holes are infamous for being photo shy – but today history was made and all that is about to change.
As their name suggests black holes are invisible to the naked eye. Theorized points of infinite density where beyond a critical radius – known as the event horizon – no light can escape. So how is the invisible now visible?
Well, firstly it should be noted that although not directly visible, their over whelming presence can definitely be seen. These enormous cosmic objects have a huge gravitational pull, which distorts spacetime and superheats the surrounding material. So, it is these effects that can be observed.
For example, in a binary system consisting of a black hole and a companion star, the black hole will accrete matter from the companion star – if the accreted matter has sufficient angular momentum it will not succumb to the intense pull of the black hole and will instead form a disk – an accretion disc. It is this matter that can be see – which although revealing it was just not revealing enough.
However, Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicted that if the surrounding material is bright enough then the black hole should create a shadow which could be observed. Such an observation would require an extremely high resolution, of which had never been done before.
The Event Horizon Telescope project therefore set about trying to achieve this. Utilizing a global collaboration of 8 radio telescopes, one of the greatest telescope arrays was created. Today, April 10th 2019, those efforts have paid off and the first image of a black hole has been obtained.
Located 53.49 million light-years away at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy, the whopping 6.5 billion solar mass black hole, M87, was successfully imaged - providing the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow.
RSF research scientist Dr. Ines Urdaneta was live at the press conference in Mexico city this morning. Here is what she had to say.
By: Dr. Amira Val Baker, RSF research scientist
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