The year 2019 is going to be quite a remarkable year for astronomy, with the release of the first ever photograph captured of a black hole set soon, thanks to the dedicated work of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT.)
We have, of course, never actually seen a black hole before, despite the many images that have been cobbled together of these large formations, and the reason for this is startlingly simple: black holes are technically formations which are invisible, and once you pass a specific point within them, all things vanish completely forever, including light and radio waves, x-rays and infrared. However, as ScienceAlert reports, at the point of the event horizon of a black hole lies the best opportunity that astronomers have for capturing a photograph.
While astronomers involved with the EHT project are set to be making an announcement about the new black hole photograph very soon, it's good to look back and remember the brilliant astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Luminet, who all the way back in 1978 gave us his own special image of the event horizon of a black hole. While not a photograph, it was nevertheless a very reasonable looking computer simulation.
"At the time it was a very exotic subject, and most astronomers did not believe in their existence," Luminet said. "I wanted to explore the strange physics of black holes and propose specific mechanisms that could help to get indirect signatures of their very existence. Also, to pursue the pun, with my name 'Luminet' I liked much the idea of how a perfectly non-luminous star can give rise to observable phenomena."Luminet, like many others, is fascinated by the idea of capturing some kind of image of a black hole and even filmmaker Christopher Nolan sought to create a "scientifically accurate" version of a black hole in the movie Interstellar. The black hole in that film came partly from Luminet's work decades ago and was helped to its conclusion by Kip Thorne, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
However, both Thorne and Luminet have agreed that this image of a black hole is not really what one would look like, if it were possible to truly capture it.
"It is precisely this strong asymmetry of apparent luminosity that is the main signature of a black hole, the only celestial object able to give the internal regions of an accretion disk a speed of rotation close to the speed of light and to induce a very strong Doppler effect," Thorne said.
The black hole that the EHT has been working on capturing can be found directly in the center of the Milky Way in Sagittarius A* and it is quite impossible to know what the future photograph will look like when it arrives.
It is wholly possible, of course, that there may just be a very fuzzy image of some pixels, although Luminet and astronomers are hopeful that the accretion disc will be captured and that the image that will be released of the event horizon of the black hole will be just as dramatic as it is believed to be in real life.