WASHINGTON: Astronomers on Wednesday unveiled the first photo of a black hole, one of the star-devouring monsters scattered throughout the Universe and obscured by impenetrable shields of gravity.
The image of a dark core encircled by a flame-orange halo of white-hot plasma looks like any number of artists’ renderings over the last 30 years. But this time, it’s the real deal.
The image has been taken by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which is a network of 10 radio telescopes. The telescope functioned as if it is a single receiver, tuned to high-frequency radio waves, to take the image.
Although India is not part of the EHT, the discovery has a distant connection to India too.
These telescopes operated at a range of frequencies gigahertz frequencies that were first generated by Indian physicist Jagadish Chandra Bose in experiments in Calcutta more than 120 years ago (during 1895).
“The telescopes are technologically very sophisticated, but they use the same core technology demonstrated by Bose,” said Somak Raychaudhury, the director of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune.
The picture – released at six simultaneous news conferences on Wednesday – shows the event horizon, which is the boundary between light and dark around a black hole. A doughnut-like body can be seen in the portrait, which scientists say is the dark silhouette of the black hole against the hot, glowing material that surrounds it.
“We are able to image one more object in the universe that … at one point people thought could not be possible. It hits that human explorer spirit. We got another look into the unknown,” Feryal Ozel, a member of the science council for the EHT said, calling the occasion her career’s highlight.
The shape of the black hole matches what theorists had predicted ever since they started wrestling with Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relatively over a hundred years ago, reports The Washington Post.
Most speculation had centred on the other candidate targeted by the Event Horizon Telescope: Sagittarius A*, a closer but smaller black hole at the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
Locking down an image of M87’s supermassive black hole at such distance is comparable to photographing a pebble on the Moon, the scientists said.
The European Commission hailed the occasion as a “paradigm shift” adding, “This major scientific achievement marks a paradigm shift in our understanding of black holes, confirms the predictions of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and opens up new lines of enquiry into our universe.”
It was also very much a team effort.
With agencies inputs