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Say Cheese! Scientists to Take First Photo of Massive Black Hole at Center of the Universe

Nov 07, 2016 04:10 AM EST
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Dimitrios Psaltis, professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Arizona, is working on capturing the first-ever image of Sagittarius A*, the massive dark void at the center of the Milky Way, Phys.org reported.

A black hole is a place in space where gravity is so strong that even a streak of light cannot get out. According to the report, next spring, a series of super-powered radio telescopes scattered around the globe will focus their lenses on Sagittarius A* . The effort will be under the eye of Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, where Psaltis is the president.

How will the eight observatories do that? As explained by the Extreme Tech, the imaging will be done through Very-Long-Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), which will imitate a telescope of equivalent size to the maximum separation between any two telescopes by merging multiple different telescopes at different sites all over the world.

Basically, the VLBI will allow astronomers to see the universe in more detail than ever. The data will determine the size and shape of the black hole and could prove or disprove that Einstein's theory of relativity which assumes that gravity is caused by the presence of matter or energy.

How exactly they will do it, if the black hole is invisible? Psaltis said they will take the photo of its shadow. The "shadow" of Sagittarius A* is thought to cast on the bright emission coming from charged particles moving at supersonic speeds.

"The plasma is so hot that it is actually glowing in the radio waves detected by the telescopes," said Psaltis. "You put a black hole in front of that glowing plasma and you get a shadow, you get a silhouette."

Meanwhile, Scientific American notes that processing a data from the experiment will be a lengthy endeavor and it will probably take months before we see a picture of it if they can really capture one.

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