The first-ever photo of a black hole could be revealed tomorrow

Katie Ramirez
April 10, 2019

Scientists will be "staring down the pipes of eternity" if, as expected, the first image of a black hole is released this week. It's four million times as massive as our sun.Our Earth is estimated to be about 24,000 to 30,000 light years away from the center of our galaxy.

The black hole is 26,000 light years away, making it rather hard to photograph, which is why the team combined radio telescopes from Chile, Spain, Mexico, Arizona in the U.S., two observatories in Hawaii, and one in Antarctica to capture the elusive snap. It's a huge scientific breakthrough, and in a move that would make both Hollywood and science fiction writers proud, as the press briefing in the USA takes place, press conferences will be held simultaneously in Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei, and Tokyo.

To conduct their discoveries, the EHT looked at two supermassive black holes: Sagittarius A* at the center of our Milky Way galaxy and M87, at the center of nearby galaxy Virgo A.

"More than 50 years ago, scientists saw there was something very bright at the center of our galaxy", Paul McNamara, an astrophysicist at the European Space Agency told the AFP.

Black holes, in other words, are invisible. Despite their regular appearance in science fiction movies and being the centre of fascination for many, black holes have been frustratingly elusive to observe.

The first are garden-variety black holes that form when the centre of a very big star collapses in on itself, creating a supernova. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km). Everything science knows about black holes is based on inference rather than actually witnessing one with our own eyes (electronic or otherwise), but that may be about to change.

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The supermassive black hole, known as a quasar, is growing so fast it can devour a mass the size of the sun every two days.

During a press conference at last month's South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, Sheperd Doeleman, who is the director of the Event Horizon Telescope, shared a quirky anecdote so people could relate to the kind of challenges involved in this project.

Supermassive black holes are thought to have first formed early in the history of the Universe, but their origin story remains a cypher. The technique for synchronizing observations effectively turns their network into a huge radio telescope nearly as wide as our planet.

Yet despite technological advancements in astronomical imaging, black holes have remained an enigma, partly because they are so compact and dense.

The event horizon is a point of no return within a black hole, where the effects of gravity are simply too strong to escape.

Einstein's theory of relativity predicts that it will be circular, while other theories predict that the shape will be "prolate", meaning squashed along the vertical axis, or "oblate", or squashed along the horizontal axis.

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