"Paradoxical, intriguing, terrifying": the black hole bigger than our solar system

Published on April 24, 2019


Harvard science history professor Peter L. Galison, a collaborator with Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), said scientists proposed theoretical arguments for black holes after 1916. It was not until the 1970s, however. , that the researchers confirmed the theory by observing areas of extremely dense matter. The scientists announced in 2016 that, for the first time, they had detected gravitational waves, which many argued were produced by the fusion of black holes and, therefore, evidence that black holes exist.

The image marked the culmination of years of work by a team of 200 scientists in 59 institutes in 18 countries. The project, which was also contributed by other scientists at Harvard's Black Hole Institute, was based on data collected by eight telescopes whose locations range from Hawaii to the South Pole. To build this image digitally, EHT's team of astronomers created the equivalent of a lens the size of planet Earth by integrating data from all the telescopes that were part of the project that is 4,000 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope.

Scientists had long fought to capture a photograph of a black hole, a region of space with a gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape it. The image revealed on Wednesday consists of a bright orange ring on a black background.

This elliptical galaxy in particular, M87, has a jet that emanates from the vicinity of the black hole, said Abraham "Avi" Loeb, the founding director of the Black Hole Initiative and president of the Harvard Department of Astronomy, of the galaxy in which the black hole was found "What you are seeing is the shadow of the black hole at the bottom of the emission of the hot gas at the base of the jet".

Astronomers have theorized that the M87 black hole reached its mbadive size by merging with several other black holes. M87 is the largest and largest galaxy in the near universe, and it is thought to have formed by merging about 100 smaller galaxies. The large size and relative proximity of the M87 black hole led astronomers to think that it could be the first black hole they could really "see".

EHT scientists restart – "Journey to the supermbadive heart of the elliptical galaxy M87"

"Getting this system from at least eight to ten different telescopes, all completely different, all working in conjunction with receivers and data logging systems, and in particular clocks – atomic clocks – be everything, if you want to think about it, in synchrony, was an incredible technical achievement, "said Harvard astronomy professor Jonathon E. Grindlay.

He said he does not think it would have been possible to generate this image even a decade ago given the sophisticated technology needed to handle the five petabytes of data, the equivalent of 5 million gigabytes, involved in the creation of the image.

Galison said he believes the revealed image will be more convincing evidence of the existence of black holes for the public than some of the more technical data. "It's amazing to be able to say, here's the black hole, the size of our solar system and bigger, and it has a mbad of six thousand five hundred soles," he said.

Andrew E. Strominger & # 39; 77, professor of physics and deputy director of theory at the Black Hole Institute, said he sees the image as the culmination of decades of research.

"The last orbit of photons": the supermbadive black hole of Milky Way "on deck" for the EHT

"[The black hole] it was an object that was predicted to exist 100 years ago, "he said. "And the fact that it took us hundreds of years to get a clear picture of them is not a measure of how lazy and slow scientists are." It is a measure of how big the problem is, and with what precision and depth we are understanding the universe that surrounds us. It's something I've been thinking about all my scientific life, and now I've seen it, "he added.

Galaxy M87 Chandra

Although Loeb said the image is certainly historical, he said the image largely corroborates his team's previous predictions of what a black hole would look like if it were digitally rendered. "So, the surprising result is that there is nothing surprising," Loeb said.

Image of EHT

According to Galison, this first image provoked so much emotion in the public because black holes are a cultural phenomenon imbued with metaphor and mythology. "There is something paradoxical, intriguing, frightening and stimulating to the imagination about black holes," he said.

Harvard scientists say they think there are still new discoveries on the horizon. "There are some real questions about the destruction, what is inside a black hole, etc., that we could reach the limit of, or even probe, with this Event Horizon Telescope," Strominger said.

The Daily Galaxy through Harvard Crimson and EHT

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