For the first time humanity can gaze in a genuine picture of a supermassive black hole. It’s eight telescopes stationed around the world, an achievement that’s taken supercomputers, countless researchers, and enormous amounts of data.
Earlier this picture had been released to the general public, the image itself — and the data used to create it went through one more step: a rigorous peer-review process, vetted by investigators in the field that were not part of this project.
While the observations took only one week at April 2017 to gather, really sorting through the vast amounts of data . Putting it all into one place was a challenge. Writing in Nature News in 2017, Davide Castelvecchi noticed that”A Normal night will yield about as much information as a year’s worth of experiments at the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, Switzerland.” All of that data was recorded on discs and then physically sent to distant locations where it was analyzed by means of a supercomputer for weeks in order to get the image we see.
The Event Horizon Telescope is not a single, traditional telescope, but rather describes a group of eight radio telescopes stationed on five continents, which observed the very same areas of space over the span of one week in April 2017.
“Black holes are the most mysterious objects in the Universe,” Sheperd Doleman, the Project Director of the Event Horizon Telescope said in a media conference today prior to compiling the picture.
The picture shows the black hole at the center of the huge galaxy Messier 87 (M87), located 53 million light years away from Earth. In addition to becoming gargantuan, the black hole of M87 has been intriguing to researchers. In some ancient pictures of this galaxy, they notices a jet of plasma. Scientists feel that the jet is made from material that not very made it to the event horizon of the black hole. Instead, the motion of M87’s black hole (which investigators think is turning rapidly) accelerated the plasma and shipped it shooting out into the universe, a beacon to remote astronomers.
According to the Event Horizon Telescope, a traditional telescope would need to be about the size of Earth in order to take this specific picture of the black hole at the middle of M87. “This really is a picture you would have seen if you had eyes as large as the Earth and have been observing in tv,” Dimitrios Psaltis, an Event Horizon Telescope project scientist in the University of Arizona, recently informed The Verge. Individually, none of those telescopes measured up, but the researchers managed to zero collecting massive amounts of information from the procedure by coordinating their efforts.