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Scientists will unveil the first images of a supermassive black hole

Early Wednesday morning, a huge collaboration of scientists are expected to release the first images of the event horizon of a black hole, constructed from data gathered by observatories all over the globe. Combined, the telescopes created a virtual telescope as big as the Earth itself that’s powerful enough to capture enough data from the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Tomorrow, we may finally see all of that data pieced together.

It’s unclear exactly what we will see tomorrow, as the collaboration — aptly named the Event Horizon Telescope — is not releasing any details ahead of the announcement. But if all goes according to plan, these black hole images will hopefully shed some light on the nature of black holes and how they are shaped. It also could tell us more about how some black holes become millions to billions of times the mass of our Sun.

“Even though those processes are things that could happen, we have not seen any of them happening in front of our eyes to be able to understand it,” Dimitrios Psaltis, an Event Horizon Telescope project scientist at the University of Arizona, tells The Verge. “By taking a picture very, very close to the event horizon, we can now start exploring our theories of what happens when I throw matter onto a black hole.”

From the verge -

The Event Horizon Telescope actually observed two black holes during one week in April 2017: Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, and M87, which is thought to be in the center of a nearby galaxy called Virgo. Both of these objects are thought to be incredibly dense. Sagittarius A*, or SgrA*, is thought to be 4 million times more massive than our Sun and 30 times larger than the star. But because it is so far away — a distance of about 26,000 light-years — the black hole appears to telescopes on Earth as though it is about the size of small ball on the surface of the Moon, according to the collaboration.

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.
In June 2018, researchers at Australian National University found the fastest-growing black hole ever seen in the universe.
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.
And in January 2019, scientists saw the oldest black holes in the universe for the first time.
More than 13 billion years after they formed, the light that was released to create these distant massive black holes is now reaching our telescopes.

Apr 10 2019. Astronomy, Science, Technology

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