Remarkable photo of black hole released in astrophysics breakthrough

Author: 
Reuters
ID: 
1554906873878475300
Wed, 2019-04-10 13:41

WASHINGTON: An international scientific team on Wednesday
announced a milestone in astrophysics — the first-ever photo of a
black hole — using a global network of telescopes to gain insight
into celestial objects with gravitational fields so strong no
matter or light can escape.
The team’s observations of the black hole at the center of
Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster,
lend strong support to the theory of general relativity put forward
in 1915 by physicist Albert Einstein to explain the laws of gravity
and their relation to other natural forces.
The research was conducted by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)
project, an international collaboration begun in 2012 to try to
directly observe the immediate environment of a black hole using a
global network of Earth-based telescopes. The announcement was made
in simultaneous news conferences in Washington, Brussels, Santiago,
Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo.
“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a
generation ago,” said astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman, director
of the Event Horizon Telescope at the Center for Astrophysics,
Harvard & Smithsonian.
This black hole resides about 54 million light-years from Earth. A
light year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion
miles (9.5 trillion km).
Black holes, phenomenally dense celestial entities, are
extraordinarily difficult to observe despite their great mass. A
black hole’s event horizon is the point of no return beyond which
anything — stars, planets, gas, dust and all forms of
electromagnetic radiation — gets swallowed into oblivion.
“This is a huge day in astrophysics,” said US National Science
Foundation Director France Córdova. “We’re seeing the
unseeable.”
The fact that black holes do not allow light to escape makes
viewing them difficult. The scientists look for a ring of light —
disrupted matter and radiation circling at tremendous speed at the
edge of the event horizon — around a region of darkness
representing the actual black hole. This is known as the black
hole’s shadow or silhouette.
Astrophysicist Dimitrios Psaltis of the University of Arizona, the
EHT project scientist, said, “The size and shape of the shadow
matches the precise predictions of Einstein’s general theory of
relativity, increasing our confidence in this century-old
theory.”

“Imaging a black hole is just the beginning of our effort to
develop new tools that will enable us to interpret the massively
complex data that nature gives us,” Psaltis added.
The project’s researchers obtained the first data in April 2017
using telescopes in the US states of Arizona and Hawaii as well as
in Mexico, Chile, Spain and Antarctica. Since then, telescopes in
France and Greenland have been added to the global network. The
global network of telescopes has essentially created a planet-sized
observational dish.

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Source: *FS – All – Science News Net
Remarkable photo of black hole released in astrophysics breakthrough