UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — The Event Horizon Telescope Observatory, a virtual Earth-sized radio dish, received the first photos of the so-called black hole shadow in the center of the M87 galaxy. This was reported by scientists at a press conference at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels.
“I never believed that the black hole in the galaxy M87 is so large as our calculations showed. When I saw this photo, I saw this for myself. of this object,” – declared Heino Falcke from the University of Nijmegen (Netherlands).
Today, most astronomers believe that supermassive black holes inhabit the center of all galaxies — objects weighing millions and billions of suns that continuously capture and absorb matter, some of which are chewed by a black hole and ejected as jets — thin plasma beams accelerated to near-light speeds.
In the Milky Way and in a number of other galaxies, this black hole is hibernating and has no jets. Scientists have been trying to understand for quite a long time when it “fell asleep”, how active it was in the past, and how this activity affected the life of stars in the center of the Galaxy and on its outskirts.
Falke and his colleagues are trying to uncover this mystery with the help of an Event Horizons Telescope interferometer, within which the capacities of the world’s most sensitive radio observatories in Chile, Spain, California, Arizona, Hawaii and even at the South Pole of the Earth were combined.
The main goal of this project, as can be understood from its name, is to get close to the horizon of events of the black hole Sgr A * located in the center of the Milky Way, and comprehensively study its properties, including taking a picture of its shadow. Similar observations scientists led the galaxy M87, located in the constellation Virgo.
So scientists call a special area of space in the vicinity of a black hole, where a peculiar reflection of its event horizon will arise due to the effect of gravitational lensing. Compared with the size of the Sgr A* accretion disk – a “donut” of ground matter that the black hole gradually absorbs, it will be very small, but it can be seen.
As the theory of relativity predicts, the shadow of a black hole will look like a dark circle surrounded by a crescent of bright light, but not all scientists agree with this prediction. EHT observations helped resolve these disputes: Einstein’s predictions were fully confirmed.
Combining the power of telescopes allows scientists to achieve a resolution exceeding the sensitivity of the Hubble a thousand times. Four years ago, two Chilean telescopes joined the project: the APEX microwave observatory and its big sister ALMA.
This allowed scientists to obtain the first data on the nearest vicinity of the black hole and to study the structure of its areas where jets and associated beams of radio emission are born. Now they have combined all the accumulated data and obtained the first image of the shadow of a black hole in the center of the galaxy M87. Images and data were published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Earlier, these images showed that the sources of electromagnetic waves surrounding the black hole have an asymmetric structure, which was an extremely unexpected discovery for many theorists who believed that the entire accretion disk – a bagel from “chewed” matter – was involved in the production of jets and radio beams.
So far, the resolution of the EHT does not allow us to say exactly what form this active region has and how fast it rotates. So far, scientists have suggested that it may look like either an irregularly shaped ring, rotating clockwise, or a kind of skewed dumbbell, in the center of which there is a black hole.
Analyzing the data collected by EHT last year, scientists hope, will help you to understand which of these two ideas are closer to the truth, and tell us whether the donut or dumbbell shape is changing over time. All this will help to find the answer to the main riddle of black holes – how jets are born and what causes them to accelerate to near-light speeds.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.
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