Scientists used a global network of telescopes In April 2017 to see and capture the first-ever photo of a black hole, according to an announcement made by researchers at the [NSF] National Science Foundation Wednesday morning. They captured a picture of the super and massive black hole and its shadow at the center of a galaxy known by the name of M87. Researchers remain baffled as to what is on the other side of the black hole.
The researchers said that this is considered to be the first direct visual evidence that black holes really exist. In the image, a central dark region is compressed by a ring of light that looks brighter on one side.
The massive galaxy is near the Virgo galaxy cluster 55 million light-years from Earth and it’s called Messier 87 or M87. This super enormous black hole has a mass that is 6.5 billion times that of our sun.
Sheperd Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration said: “We have seen what we always thought to be unseeable, we have seen and taken a photo of a real black hole.”
The EHT also called the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration is a global network of telescopes that captured the first photograph ever of a black hole. About 200 or more researchers were involved in this project in particular. They have been working for over a decade to make this happen. This project is named for the event horizon, the proposed border or boundary around a black hole which represents the point of no return, the point where no light or radiation can escape.
According to the European Southern Observatory, scientists combined the power of eight radio telescopes around the world by using very long baseline interferometry, In their attempt to capture a photograph of the black hole. This effectively creates a virtual telescope which can be around the same size as planet Earth itself.
The telescopes involved in creating the global array included APEX, ALMA, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, the IRAM 30-meter telescope, Alfonso Serrano, the Submillimeter Telescope, the Large Millimeter Telescope, the Submillimeter Array and finally the South Pole Telescope.
Daniel Marrone, associate professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona said that the observations were a coordinated dance in which they simultaneously pointed their telescopes in a carefully planned sequence, to make sure that those observations were truly simultaneous, so that they could see the same wavefront of light as it landed on each telescope, they used extremely precise atomic clocks at each of the telescopes.”
The telescope array collected around 5,000 trillion bytes of data over the period of two weeks, which was processed through supercomputers so that the scientists could finally retrieve the images.
The observation’s details were published in a series of six research papers in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
What are black holes?
Black holes are mainly made up of very large amounts of matter squeezed into a very small area, and according to NASA, creating a massive force field which draws in everything near or around it, including light. They also have a way of super-heating the material around them and warping spacetime. Material accumulates around black holes, is heated to billions of degrees and reaches nearly the speed of light. And light bends around the gravity of the black hole, which creates this photon ring seen in the image.
The imaging methods used to capture this photograph reveal that this enormous black hole has a structure which is like a ring and a shadow, which is represented by a black and dark central region.
chair of the EHT Science Council, Heino Falcke said that if immersed in a bright region, like a disc of glowing gas, they expect a black hole to create a dark region similar to a shadow which is something predicted by Einstein’s general relativity that we’ve never seen before, This shadow, reveals a lot about the nature of these fascinating objects and allowed us to measure the enormous mass of M87’s black hole and it was caused by the gravitational bending and capture of light by the event horizon.
The visual confirmation that came as a photograph of black holes acts as confirmation of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. In his theory, Einstein predicted that dense, compact regions of space would have such intense gravity that nothing will be able to escape them. But if heated materials taking the form of plasma surround the black hole and emit light, the event horizon could then be visible.
Paul T.P. Ho, EHT Board member and director of the East Asian Observatory said that once they were sure they had finally imaged the shadow, they could then compare their observations to extensive computer models that include the physics of superheated matter, warped space and strong magnetic fields. Many of the features of the observed photograph match surprisingly well with their theoretical understanding, this makes them confident even more about the interpretation of their observations, including the estimation they made about the black hole’s mass.
M87’s black hole has a super enormous mass, which gave researchers every reason to believe it may be the largest viewable black hole from planet Earth. Supermassive black holes are actually small relative to other objects. This is why they could not be observed even for once before. Black hole’s size is directly linked to mass. The larger the black hole, the larger its shadow. the researchers said that black holes may look invisible, but the way they interact with the material and objects around them is the giveaway.
National Science Foundation director France Córdova said that black holes have sparked imaginations for decades, they have exotic properties and are totally mysterious to us. Yet, with many more observations similar to this one, and they are now yielding their secrets. This is why NSF exists. We make it possible for scientists and engineers to illuminate the unknown, to reveal the ultra-fine and complex majesty of our own universe.”
What is on the Other Side of a Black Hole?
One of the biggest mysteries in science is what is on the other side of a black hole. There are some theories that it could be very large black holes void of anything or anyone. The problem with this theory is that if there is nothing that can escape from a black hole, then what is on the other side of the hole would also be nothing or virtually impossible to find. This is one of the leading theories that scientists believe in but still cannot explain exactly what is on the other side of a black hole.
If you have ever had the experience of looking out at a starry sky from a place on earth that does not give you the greatest view, then you will know what it feels like to be gazing into the black abyss. The only way to see it in its true form is to enter a black hole, and even that can be a terrifying experience in and of itself. It is possible to go into a black hole, but there is no guarantee that you will come back out, so it is safer to assume that if you want to what is on the other side of a black hole, you will have to do so at the cost of your own life. This is because although not all of the matter that goes down inside a black hole is going to vaporize and return to the surface of the Earth, some of it will certainly evaporate and eventually come back down as some sort of matter, thereby impacting on our planet.
There are many theories as to what is on the other side of a black hole, but there is only one real way to know for sure: if you happen to spot a planet orbiting a very large (or very bright) star, then there is a very strong chance that the planet will pass through the hole on its way to the Earth. Even if the planet is not very big (which it might not be if it is circling around a very bright star), there is still a very strong chance that it will pass through. If you happen to be right on the front side of the hole when this happens, your planet could be vaporized, while your space ship would be destroyed upon reentry.
Although it is impossible to actually see what is on the other side of a black hole with the unaided eye, there are ways of knowing just what is happening at an infrared space telescope. Some infrared telescopes can actually look at black holes using very sensitive infrared cameras, and by looking at images taken by these telescopes, it is possible to tell exactly what is going on in the holes. Because infrared telescopes are so powerful, they can also peer through many atmospheres, including those found around stars. And by using multiple infrared telescopes, you can build up an even bigger picture of what is on the other side of a black hole than what is visible to the unaided eye.
Jack Guy contributed to this report.
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