Scientists set to reveal first-ever image of a black hole


An worldwide collaboration of scientists has promised a "groundbreaking result" from a project on Wednesday that many expect will be the first-ever image of the edge of a black hole.

The telescope uses radio dishes around the world to create an Earth-sized interferometer, which is basically an instrument in which the interference of two beams of light is employed to make precise measurements.

While scientists involved in the research declined to disclose the findings ahead of the formal announcement, they are clear about their goals.

As Lai explained, it's hard to see black hole shadows clearly because any images are blurred by interstellar gas, which presents a complicated challenge for the EHT team.

The global team of over 200 globally-synched scientists, researchers and astrophysicists have not offered a peep about what will be shown on Wednesday, although they are not shy about the project and its implications.

Wednesday news conference is expected to provide the first image of Sagittarius A* shadow on its accompanying disk of bright material.

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The picture will have been captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a network of eight radio telescopes scattered across the globe. That theory, put forward in 1915, was meant to explain the laws of gravity and their relation to other natural forces. At the center of most galaxies lies a supermassive black hole, which can have a mass billions of times greater than that of the sun, all crammed in a relatively small volume. It is also really really far away - about 26,000 light years.

Black holes, which come in different sizes, are formed when very massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycle. When black holes collide into one another, they let off massive gravitational waves that have been detected by telescopes and interferometers at observatories in the US and Italy. The event horizon of the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*, measures about 24 million kilometres across.

The EHT is created from telescopes located in Chile, Hawaii, Arizona, Mexico, Spain, and the South Pole. Optical telescopes are not capable of making such an observation, in part because both potential target black holes are embedded within dense thickets of dust and stars that obscure the view.

The existence of black holes is universally accepted among today's astronomers, but there is still a lot that we don't know about them. The scientists will be looking for a ring of light - radiation and matter circling at tremendous speed at the edge of the event horizon - around a region of darkness representing the actual black hole. Fortunately, our galaxy's supermassive black hole is on the quiet side.

The scientists said the shape of the shadow would be nearly a flawless circle in Einstein's theory of general relativity, and if it turns out that it is not, there is something wrong with the theory.