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Insights into Editorial: Seeing darkness: the first image of a black hole

Insights into Editorial: Seeing darkness: the first image of a black hole


When the first-ever direct picture of a black hole was unveiled, scientists around the world were almost giddy over finally getting a chance to see one of the most mysterious objects in the universe.

“A once-in-a-lifetime result,” exulted, director of the Event Horizon Telescope, the international team of scientists who created the image using a network of radio telescopes linked together to form a single, Earth-size observatory.


What exactly is a black hole? How big is the black hole in M87?

According to Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, black holes are uninhabitable chasms of spacetime that end in a ‘singularity,’ or a mass of infinite density.

Black holes, with gravitational fields so powerful that not even light could escape them, were inferred by quantum physics about a century ago.

It’s a place so bleak that even the laws of physics break down there, Mother Nature Network reported.

According to scientist estimates there are approximately 100 million black holes in our galaxy, however, none of them are close enough to Earth, Fortune reported.

The gravitational forces of them are so strong that nothing, neither matter nor light, can escape once it gets too close.

As per the estimates made using different techniques, the size of the black hole in M87 has ranged between 3.5 billion and 7.22 billion times the mass of the sun.

However, new EHT measurements show that its mass is about 6.5 billion solar masses.

The EHT team has also determined the black hole’s size, the diameter of this black hole stretches a whopping 38 billion kilometers and it spins clockwise, according to Science News report.


About event horizon telescope:

Event horizon telescope consists of eight radio observatories around the world, including telescopes in Spain, the US and Antarctica

In 2006, an international team of more than 200 researchers, led by Harvard University astronomers, launched the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project with a sole aim: to capture a direct shot of a black hole.

Thirteen partner institutions worked together to create the EHT, using both pre-existing infrastructure and support from a variety of agencies.

Key funding was provided by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the EU’s European Research Council (ERC), and funding agencies in East Asia.

The EHT observations use a technique called very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) which synchronises telescope facilities around the world and exploits the rotation of our planet to form one huge, Earth-size telescope observing at a wavelength of 1.3 mm.

Observations at the different sites were coordinated using atomic clocks, called hydrogen masers, accurate to within one second every 100 million years. Researchers combined radio-wave data from each telescope, creating the image.


First supermassive black hole photographed to be named Powehi:

The team of astronomers who created the image of the black hole called it M87(asterisk). A language professor has given it a name from a Hawaiian chant — Powehi meaning “the adorned fathomless dark creation.”

The black hole in question is about 53 million light years away in the center of a galaxy called Messier 87, or M87 for short.

Scientists revealed a picture they took of it using eight radio telescopes, the first-time humans had actually seen one of the dense celestial objects that suck up everything around them, even light.

This is a great scientific achievement, but its success owes to good management rather than pathbreaking science.

The Event Horizon Telescope is actually a virtual machine, a network of eight radio telescope arrays scattered all over the earth, which were synchronised in 2017 to look at the same spot in the heavens, 55 million light years away.


Way Ahead to the Scientists:

The Event Horizon Telescope’s first run prove that event horizons really exist. Astronomers now hope to carry out further observations of M87 to deduce the shape and depth of the shadow region more accurately.

They are also hopeful to add more telescopes to the array that will allow for higher-resolution images. As well as M87, the EHT team is attempting to take the first image of Sagittarius A.

The experiment of EHT owes to international collaboration and use of interdisciplinary expertise. Future runs could help us to understand the basics of our universe more precisely and accurately.

Science fiction celebrates black holes as gateways into “wormholes”, shortcuts across the universe that bend space-time.

Step into one black hole, step out of another 55 million light years away. Of course, the first step is the hardest.

An object crossing the event horizon of a black hole would suffer acceleration and tidal forces that should end its career as matter.

A black hole is only a shortcut to the sobering realisation that the laws of physics, which we regard to be susceptible to change.