A team of astronomers may have finally captured what would be the first ever image of a black hole.
Upon completing five nights of observations, astronomers confirmed that the photo will likely be that of the mysterious region surrounding a black hole. This region, called the event horizon, is the boundary in which nothing can escape beyond it – not even light – due to the black hole’s wide and powerful grasp.
The two supermassive black hole’s studied were Sagittarius A, the black hole at the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy, and a black hole in the center of the galaxy M87.
One of the team members involved in the research, Vincent Fish, recalled how he watched celebratory comments come in as the last of the data from the program came through the project observatories. “I’m very happy and very relieved, and I’m looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep,” according to Fish, after many sleepless nights constantly checking on the reports.
A Long Road Ahead
However, it is worth noting that with the amount of data on hand, the team will have to wait months to know if their project was indeed successful. Sadly the amount of data collected by the observatories is too much to transmit wirelessly, so they will have to ship it using 1,024 hard drives. To make the wait even longer, data collected by the South Pole telescope cannot be sent until the end of winter in October.
The data is being sent to processing centers at MIT Haystack and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany. Once the data is collected, it will be processed by computers to create a single image and hopefully have the first real image of a black hole.
“Even if the first images are still crappy and washed out, we can already test for the first time some basic predictions of Einstein’s theory of gravity in the extreme environment of a black hole,” says radio astronomer Heino Falcke of Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.