This is what a black hole looks like: researchers photograph a chasm larger than our solar system



An image published on April 10 shows the event horizon of a black hole in the galaxy M87, the first photograph of a black hole that has been taken.

Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

As an idea, black holes have been with us for more than a century. Gradually, they have been imagined, perceived, measured and even heard. However, until now scientists have not been able to claim the definitive form of proof.

For the first time, a black hole has been seen.

The amazing result, perhaps less impressive for the non-experts because of its appearance than for what it means, is the closest that humanity has come to visualize one of the dark giants moving away in distant corners of the universe.

The story continues below the announcement

And while decades of theory and observation have consistently pointed to the conclusion that black holes exist, the fact that it has only been glimpsed now places the phenomenon at the center of the stage in all its fascinating oddities.

"For me, seeing the thing makes it real in a way that you can not know," said Avery Broderick, a researcher at the Perimetral Institute of Theoretical Physics and the University of Waterloo, a member of the team behind the image, who was available to its launch at a press conference on Wednesday morning in Washington.

Avery Broderick, a researcher at the Perimetral Institute of Theoretical Physics and the University of Waterloo, faces the image of the black hole. Watch this video to see Ivan Semeniuk's explanation of the meaning of the team's discovery.

Dr. Broderick, second from right, sits while Event Horizon Telescope director Sheperd Doeleman talks about the black hole at a press conference on April 10 in Washington. Also present are France Cordova, the director of the National Science Foundation, the second from the left; The badociate professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, Dan Marrone, mid-level; and Sera Markoff, professor of high-energy astrophysics at the University of Amsterdam.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The "thing" that Dr. Broderick and his colleagues have revealed to the world is monstrous even by the standards of black holes, buried in the heart of a distant galaxy called M87.

The measurement of the image, which shows a bright orange ring wrapped around an impenetrably dark center, confirms that the black hole is larger than our solar system and contains the mbad of more than six billion stars.

By definition, black holes do not emit light, so the image is essentially a silhouette, with the black hole seen in contrast to the surrounding brightness of the hot gas that revolves around its edge.

No conventional camera can produce such an image. Instead, it is the work of a single project, called Horizon Event Telescope, which takes advantage of sensitive radio antennas located in facilities around the world to map the signals emanating from the region around the black hole.

"It looks beautiful," said Dr. Broderick. "Essentially, it's exactly what the theoretical predictions said it would look like."

The story continues below the announcement

A photo provided in 2000 by NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team shows a jet of subatomic particles, traveling at almost the speed of light, as it flows from the center of the galaxy M87.

NASA, ESA AND THE HUBBLE HERITAGE TEAM / The New York Times News Service

These predictions are guided by the equations of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity of 1915, which describe gravity as a curve in spacetime and show that when enough mbad is concentrated in one place, the curve can become a trap that limits the light and anything else that falls. On it. Mathematics also suggests that, once inside the black hole, matter is crushed to a central point that approaches an infinite density, known as singularity. The singularity remains hidden behind a theoretical limit, the horizon of events, beyond which nothing can be seen and no information can escape.

Even Einstein was skeptical that such entities could really exist, but for decades evidence has accumulated that black holes are a real and important component of the universe in which we live.

Now it is believed that they come in two varieties. Some black holes are formed by the gravitational collapse of mbadive stars. These are dense but compact objects, with horizons of events that are only tens of kilometers wide.

In contrast, the Event Horizon telescope is designed to reveal the gigantic black holes that are believed to reside in the nuclei of galaxies. Only two of these examples have the right combination of distance and size to be within reach of the project. One is the black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. The other is the more remote but much larger black hole in M87, a very active galaxy that sports a huge jet of ionized gas that leaves its nucleus. This was the second objective that produced the first image of the black hole, based on the measurements that were obtained in 2017 and then they were reconstructed meticulously to create a two-dimensional image.

Among the characteristics that scientists say they have detected in the image is the base of the jet, made of electrically charged particles that narrowly escaped falling into the black hole and that, instead, are thrown out by powerful magnetic fields. The image has generated enthusiasm in the research community because it opens the possibility of discovering new details about how the laws of physics operate in environments of high gravity, as well as the role that black holes have played in the formation and evolution of galaxies. , including ours. .

Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo, an astrophysicist at the University of Montreal whose work focuses on supermbadive black holes, said the result represents another great step forward after the recent detection of gravitational waves: tiny vibrations in spacetime that occur by the collisions of stellar-sized black holes. . "That gave us a surprising proof that there are small black holes," he said. "Supermbadive black holes are a completely different situation. It is still difficult for us to understand how the universe can create such monsters. "

Black holes: anatomy of the abyss.

Accepted theory postulates that black holes are regions of space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape

Event Horizon

Point at which

nothing can

escape – black

hole becomes

invisible

Singularity

Theoretical

region of

infinite

density and

Pressure

THE BALLOON AND THE MAIL

SOURCE: graphic news

Accepted theory postulates that black holes are regions of space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape

Event Horizon

Point at which

nothing can

escape – black

hole becomes

invisible

Singularity

Theoretical

region of

infinite

density and

Pressure

THE BALLOON AND THE MAIL

SOURCE: graphic news

Accepted theory postulates that black holes are regions of space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape

Event Horizon

Point at which

nothing can

escape – black

hole becomes

invisible

Singularity

Theoretical

region of

infinite

density and

Pressure

THE BALLOON AND THE MAIL

SOURCE: graphic news

The conceptual illustration of a NASA artist shows what a supermbadive black hole would be, billions of times the mbad of our sun.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Reuters

A brief history of black holes.

1915: Albert Einstein publishes his theory of general relativity, a mathematical way of describing the gravity in which the mbad acts to bend space and time. The new theory correctly predicts that the sun's gravity doubles the incoming light of the background stars.

1916: Karl Schwarzschild, a German astronomer stationed on the Russian front during World War I, returns Einstein's equations to a more versatile form and shows that when the mbad is sufficiently concentrated, space can curl so much that it catches light.

An illustration shows the space-time continuum as a green grid and imagines how the sun and the Earth deform it with gravity. The theory is that the gravity well of a black hole is so powerful that not even light can escape from it.

T. Pyle / Caltech / MIT / LIGO Lab

1938: Along with two graduate students, Robert Oppenheimer, future father of the atomic bomb, demonstrates how a collapsed star could concentrate mbad in a way that matches Schwarzschild's description.

1947: John Bolton and Gordon Stanley, two astronomers working with an early form of radio telescope in New Zealand, discover a series of celestial sources of radio energy, including one that they call "Virgo A", identified with the galaxy M87, an early track of Giant black hole that will then be discovered there.

1964: An X-ray detector transported on a rocket launched from New Mexico sees Cygnus X-1, one of the brightest known astronomical X-ray sources, and was then shown to emit hot gas into a black hole.

1967: Although the words "black hole" have already been used from time to time in a metaphorical sense, the American physicist John Wheeler constructs the term in the scientific lexicon when he uses it in a talk about objects collapsed gravitationally during a lecture.

The story continues below the announcement

An X-ray image of the Chandra X-ray Observatory shows Cygnus X-1, a star that is orbiting by what is believed to be a black hole.

NASA / CXC

1971: Tom Bolton, an astronomer working at the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill, Ontario, watches the movement of a companion star around Cygnus X-1. The movement reveals that the object that is orbiting the star is too mbadive to be anything other than a black hole, probably formed by a single collapsed star. Using a similar principle, astronomers will later show that a much larger black hole, equal to the mbad of millions of stars, is lurking in the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

1994: The newly repaired Hubble Space Telescope measures the speed of a rotating gas cloud in the heart of the M87 galaxy, finding that the gravitational field that drives the rotation is best explained by a huge black hole at its center that contains the mbad of thousands of millions of stars.

An illustration shows the fusion of two black holes detected by the Laser Interferometer Observatory of gravitational waves in 2015, with gravity waves radiating outward from them.

LIGO / T. Pyle

2015: Scientists working with the Gravitational Laser Interferometer Observatory (LIGO) report the first detection of gravitational waves from a pair of stellar-sized black holes that collide with each other.

2019: The Event Horizon telescope reveals the first direct view of a supermbadive black hole as a dark region embedded within a disk of glowing gas in the heart of M87.


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