Scientists Are Expecting The 1st Direct Black Hole Image Soon
In late 2017, scientists with the Event Horizon Telescope – an international collaboration that’s created a virtual Earth-sized telescope, with the goal of capturing the first direct image of a black hole – reported on a the long-awaited shipment of hard disk drives from the South Pole.
They said they were busily analyzing the data on these drives, which is expected to be a key component in giving us the first-ever direct image of a black hole sometime in 2019.
As most of us know, black holes are truly black. That is, they are regions containing so much mass squeezed into so little space – regions of such powerful gravity – that no information or light or anything can escape, even if moving at the fastest speed known to exist in our universe, the speed of light.
Astronomers with the Event Horizon Telescope aren’t aiming to capture the black nothingness of a black hole itself (that’s not possible), but instead a black hole’s event horizon, the sphere-like point-of-no-return surrounding a black hole.
Which black hole then? Naturally, they’ll want to image the black hole that appears biggest from Earth.
The first logical choice is Sagittarius A* – pronounced Sagittarius A-star – a 4-million-solar-mass black hole located at the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
This supermassive black hole is about 27,000 light-years from Earth.
The secondary target of the Event Horizon Telescope is much, much farther away, some 50-60 million light-years from Earth.
It’s the supermassive black hole at the center of M87: the largest galaxy in our home galaxy cluster, the Virgo cluster.
How can it appear big to us, at such a great distance away? It contains over 6 billion solar masses. This black hole is so big it could swallow our solar system whole.
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