The first photo of a black hole can arrive in a few days.



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By David Freeman

Humanity could be a few days away from seeing the first photograph of a black hole.

We have seen innumerable illustrations and simulations of black holes in recent years, but never a real photo of a close-up. That could change on Wednesday, when scientists will gather at six simultaneous press meetings around the world to discover the "innovative result" of a year-long effort to capture images of black holes at the centers of our Milky Way Galaxy and a neighboring galaxy.

The press briefing of the United States will be held at 9 a.m. This one at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and will be broadcast live here. It will be organized by the National Science Foundation and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), an international collaboration that has been working to photograph a black hole using eight radio observatories linked from around the world to form a single telescope the size of Earth.

The scientists involved in the effort refused to discuss the result before the press events, which will be held in Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Tokyo and Tapei, as well as in Washington. But it is believed that the result is based on a vast treasure trove of data from observations made in April 2017 of Sagittarius A * (pronounced Sagittarius A-star), the mbadive black hole that lies 26,000 light-years from Earth in the center of the Milky Way. , and another supermbadive black hole in the center of the neighboring Virgo Galaxy.

Black holes are super dense remains of collapsed stars whose gravitational forces are so intense that not even light can escape. But if black holes are completely black, invisible, scientists believe that the radio waves emitted by the gas and dust swirling around them are visible through a sufficiently powerful telescope.

How could that be in a photo? Physicists have hypothesized that it could be seen as a dark area on a bright background, essentially the "shadow" of the black hole projected onto the matter that swirls around it.

"They have always aspired to imagine a" shadow "of a black hole, and the best thing is that they have achieved this feat," said Roger Blandford, an astrophysicist at Stanford University who is not part of the EHT collaboration, told NBC. News MACH in an email. . "You can think that a black hole is like a hand lens in which he painted a black disk, what he sees depends on what shines behind and around."

Blandford said he would listen at the briefing, adding that he would be "excited" to see an image of a black hole. "When I first became interested in black holes when I was a student, I never imagined that such a feat would be possible."

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