We are all set to find out whether astronomers have been able to record an image of a black hole. At 9 a.m. Eastern Time today, a team of astronomers that has run a network of radio telescopes known as the Event Horizon Telescope is expected to reveal the long-awaited pictures of two putative black holes.
One of them is located at the center of the Milky Way galaxy and is equivalent, in terms of mass, to 4.1 million suns. The second one is situated in the heart of Messier 87. Messier 87 is a huge galaxy in the constellation Virgo. This black hole is seven billion times the mass of the sun.
If all has gone well, then these black holes should appear as a small shadow that has been backlit with the glow of radio energy at the galactic center. We do not know for sure if the astronomers have been able to record an image of the black hole. If they have, the Event Horizon team is making sure that it stays quiet about it. However, the team is getting ready for a big reveal.
Shep Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope, has already said last week at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, ‘The team is working exceptionally hard to quadruple-check all the results.’ The announcement from the team will be made simultaneously from six places all over the world. The news conference slated at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. shall be presided over by France Córdova, head of the National Science Foundation. The team has already booked the National Air and Space Museum for a party tonight.
We are not going to go into the details of what black holes or how they are formed or what their properties are. We will, however, mention that any doubts about the presence of black holes were effectively removed when LIGO, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, picked up a collision of two distant black holes, sending a shiver through the space-time fabric.
Daniel Holz, University of Chicago, said, ‘Yes, I’m definitely excited to see the image! It’s not really rational since I know the math works and the theory has been thoroughly tested. But still, this would be a picture of the real thing, up close and personal. That is super cool.’ Taking a picture of a black hole is not an easy task. Allow us to explain; a black hole that has a mass of 4.1 million suns will only be about 15 million miles wide. It might seem like too much, but in reality, it is a very small area to be observed from this far away. It is similar to looking for an apple on the Moon with the naked eye.
We have our fingers crossed waiting for the Event Horizon team to unveil the news!