While astronomers have not been able to gaze into a black hole, this is set to change as the Event Horizon Telescope is now set to attempt to capture the very first image of the event horizon of a black hole. The event horizon is the area of the black hole from which astronomers believe nothing, including light, can escape.
In 1915, Karl Schwarzchild mathematically predicted the existence of black holes and astronomers believe that at the center of massive galaxies lurk supermassive black holes. These black holes are thought to be from one million to one billion times larger than Earth’s Sun.
Astronomers believe in the existence of these supermassive black holes as they can measure their gravitational pull on stars that are orbiting the center of galaxies. Further proof of these black holes was delivered by last year’s LIGO experiment when ripples in space-time were detected as a result of two black holes which millions of years ago merged together.
Between April 5 to April 14, the Event Horizon Telescope will try to look into the event horizon of a black hole by connecting radio telescopes together so that they merge and become the equivalent of a massive telescope almost as big as the Earth. The global telescope the astronomers connect will include ones from Chile, Antarctica, Spain, Hawaii, Arizona, and Mexico. This so-called “virtual telescope” has been in the making for many years now, and will also include the Atacama Large Millimetre Array Telescope in Chile as well as the South Pole Telescope.
By connecting all of these telescopes to form a larger one, this will allow scientists to gaze into the center of our Milky Way Galaxy to capture a black hole, known as Sagittarius A, which is so enormous that it is four million times larger than our Sun, as Science Alert report.
Astronomers already know that around this black hole orbits a disk of gas and dust. The light from the dust and gas will be distorted in the black hole’s gravitational field. Astronomers hope that the Event Horizon Telescope will show this to be a crescent shape instead of a disk shape.
— RT America (@RT_America) February 17, 2017
The BBC reports that last year, team member Feryal Ozel spoke at a press conference saying that with any luck the image won’t look like a ring.
“Hopefully, it will look like a crescent – it won’t look like a ring. The rest of the ring will also emit, but what you will brightly pick up is a crescent. We’re almost there. The phasing in of the instruments has been done, the receivers are in place and the theoretical work has been done. There are quite a few challenges that need to be overcome to take a picture of a black hole – it’s something that’s extremely small in the sky. But what we’re hoping for is a full array observation in early 2017.”
Grant Tremblay, an Observational Astrophysicist from Yale University, has called the future observation of a black hole with the Event Horizon Telescope a “seminal observation,” as the Concord Register notes.
“This is going to be a seminal observation in the history of mankind. This image of Sagittarius A, whatever it shows, will be in the top ten images ever taken.”
Even though the telescope is going to be aimed so that it can capture Sagittarius A’s event horizon, astronomers should also be able to capture the black hole itself as there will be enough resolution for this.
If this incredible feat of capturing the event horizon of Sagittarius A and the black hole itself is managed with the Event Horizon Telescope, what do you think it will look like?
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]