Our perception of how the universe works might change today after the Event Horizon Telescope team might reveal the first real image of a black hole.
The most captivating and beautiful objects discovered in the universe that inspired geniuses like Einstein, movies like Interstellar and loads of libraries of scientific research and also science fiction are black holes. Humans have never seen a black hole in spite of the incredible gravitation that holds them in our imagination, as well as our so far knowledge of physics.
That, however, might change as on Wednesday, today, an image of Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole of our galaxy, could be released to the public. Both science and technology made this historic moment possible by an array telescope spread across the Earth named Event Horizon Telescope.
As mentioned earlier, humans have never seen a black hole for real. All the images provided for the public from NASA and other scientific organizations were created in artistic programs, based to a certain degree on telescopic data. A recent illustration released by the NASA was designed with most data gathered by the organization’s telescope named Chandra X-Ray, which was able to identify the perimeter of a black hole or even the super-heated matter that is attracted towards the event horizon.
Designing an illustration like those of NASA’s is like drawing a hurricane only based on information about the wind speed gathered from our edges of the phenomena. It is an entirely different matter actually to see a satellite image of a rambling tropical cyclone.
It requires a great deal of collaborative engineering to genuinely catch a direct image of a black hole or somewhat a shade of one defined by the blazing matter that’s being attracted towards.
Understanding how things work behind the scenes of the universe
The Very Long Baseline Interferometer (VLBI) is radio telescopes linked together and placed on different sides of the planet by an arrangement the scientists call EHT. The simple idea of this array is that if radio telescopes from diverse places are linked together, their power is boosted.
To better understand this concept you can check the images of the Very Large Array in New Mexico with its numerous telescopic dishes all running together. Also, if you have ever seen the 1997 movie Contact in which they projected the array very well, you can better imagine Jodie Foster from the movie tapping into an arrangement of dishes that are separated by thousands of kilometers, and not by meters.
As the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory explains in their Event Horizon Telescope Animated Movie, the planet-sized observatory is crucial because while Sagittarius A is 4 million times as enormous as the sun, it is still far away, at a gap of approximately 26,000 light years.
To photograph a black hole is a challenging thing to achieve: is like trying to see the spots on a golf ball in Los Angeles from New York. Luckily, the Event Horizon Telescope acts like super zoomed lenses, and it might be able to let us into the unknown. The EHT arrangement of observatories owns telescopes in Chile, Hawaii, Arizona, Mexico, Spain, and the South Pole and it is accurately synchronized to gather multiple petabytes of information to design the first illustration of Sagittarius A, possible with the help of a supercomputer.
The data collected back in 2017 is composing the image ready to be released on Wednesday and the reason of the delay is the fact that the internet isn’t rapid enough to zap data worth of petabytes all around the world as requested, although we’ve improved significantly at processing enormous volumes of data in the recent years. The data collected by each EHT in their physical hard disk had to be taken to a data-processing center and combined with information from all the other observatories.
What we have now is a multitude of excited scientists that are thrilled to look at a black hole located on the other side of our galaxy, and we can not emphasize enough that the universe or the fundamental understanding of it might be at stake.
Is Einstein’s theory actually about to be proven correct?
The EHT’s new image of the black hole and its shape could determine whether Albert Einstein’s gravity theory works and how or project more doubts upon it.
In essence, what Einstein said is that gravity can wrap the fabric of space-time, which is thought to be the atmosphere that the sun, our Earth and the rest of the cosmos is moving through. So when a massive star collapses on itself and transforms into a very dense object that has an extreme gravitational pull, it has a severe warping power.
This terrific gravitational pull is called the “singularity” at the middle of a black hole. The singularity is a powerful creator of chaos, wrapping the space-time and bending light near the event horizon. What this behavior tells us is that the singularity is hiding behind the shadow of the black hole created by its massiveness of space-time and light-consuming.
Another reason to believe that Einstein was right is the fact that those theories were bolstered by the first observations of gravitational waves, as anticipated by his ideas. However, even if Einstein’s theory of gravity seems to be proven when looking at significant objects like stars and galaxies, it is not consistent with quantum mechanics which studies the bizarre, invisible particles that compose the atoms at the center of everything.
What does the universe hold for us?
The singularity has to be a bizarre place as well, as disclosed in Einstein’s math. New theories might be formed, even ones that could be set as a bridge between the quantum concepts and Einstein’s arguments from the scientists’ enablement to study the images of the black hole. They might be able to come up with new understandings of what is happening there.
Astrophysicist Karan Jani shared on Twitter that all the laws of physics break at the point of knowing that the singularity of a black hole is a place of infinite density. He shares his questions and the thought that human knowledge might not be advanced enough to understand if such singularity can exist in the universe.
The unreasonable and dynamic jets of near-light-speed particles that appear to explode all over the universe is another curious thing that is going on at black holes. Questions about what’s on the other side of a black hole, either portal to another universes or wormholes or white wholes will remain unanswered unless clear ideas on what is going on beyond our perspective will appear.
A new understanding regarding the universe might reveal to us on Wednesday, as the Event Horizon Telescope might have seen a black hole for real, and the team behind the project could reveal that today. Watch the press conference live, below, starting with 15:00 CEST:
Karen and her husband live on a plot of land in British Columbia. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. They are also currently planning a move to a small cabin they hand built. Karen’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Thus sprung Anna’s interest in backyard gardening, chicken and goat keeping, recycling and self-sufficiency.