The Future of Black Hole Photography: What's Next for the Event Horizon Telescope

Space.com | 4/11/2019 | Mike Wall
Click For Photo: https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/wS5ytyMNaRpRMuCp62yjKn-1200-80.jpg

The researchers who captured the first-ever images of a black hole don't plan to rest on their laurels.

Yesterday (April 10), the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration announced that it had photographed the contours of the supermassive black hole at the heart of M87, a huge elliptical galaxy that lies 55 million light-years from Earth.

Contours - Hole - Event - Horizon - Point

Those contours outline the black hole's event horizon, the famous point of no return beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape.

The epic achievement further bolsters Einstein's theory of general relativity, which describes gravity as a consequence of the warping of space-time. And the newly unveiled images should help scientists better understand how black holes tick, and how the biggest ones — such as the M87 monster, which harbors the mass of 6.5 billion suns — shape the evolution of their host galaxies, scientists said.

Project - Work - Example - Images - Algorithms

But that doesn't mean the project's work is done — far from it. For example, it should be possible to sharpen the existing images using algorithms, EHT director Sheperd Doeleman, of Harvard University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said during a press conference yesterday.

And we could soon get a look at another black hole as well.

Result - Observing - Campaign - April - Run

The new result came from a weeklong observing campaign conducted in April 2017 — a run during which the researchers also studied the supermassive black hole at the heart of our own Milky Way galaxy. This object, known as Sagittarius A*, harbors 4.3 million solar masses and lies about 26,000 light-years from Earth.

Sagittarius A* is more variable over short timescales than the M87 black hole and is therefore more difficult to image, Doeleman said. But the team is optimistic that it will be able to pull a picture of Sagittarius A*'s event horizon out of the data as well.

Anything

"We're not promising anything, but we hope...
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