Tuesday, April 11, 2017

POINT of NO RETURN –Telescopes aim at a Black Hole

For decades we’ve been told what a black hole looks like and we have accepted that image as if it were fact. Now, finally, a telescope known as the Event Horizon Telescope might be changing all that. Called the EHT, it in reality is 8 telescopes located all around the world – from Mexico to Spain to Antarctica scientists will be casting their telescopes ‘eyes’ to Sagittarius A* , the supermassive black hole that lives in our neighborhood – kind of. It’s actually around 1600 or so light years from Earth.  


Black Holes are the sponge of space. They sop up gas, dust, and all sorts of debris. Supposedly light is trapped by a Black Holes pull as well. Sometimes this assertion has been brought to task versus observations but generally is an accepted ‘fact’. For those not as accepting though this glimpse will hopefully reveal the truth.


In order to track down the evasive truth of Sagittarius A*, a massive lens is reqired — a lens the size of the Earth. The technique is called very long baseline interferometry, the Event Horizon Telescope project is designed to link the ALMA observatory with all of the other such telescopes (Arizona, California, Hawaii, the South Pole and hopefully Greenland) and form a telescope that’s giant enough, with a high-enough resolution to see that black hole.


These radio telescopes are extremely sensitive. Sensitive enough that thin clouds are enough to complicate the chances of ALMA’s 66 antennas detecting tiny radiation waves from space. So with all the difficulties and all the data that will be collected, publication of this image may not happen until next year. But then we’ve waited this long – a little longer is no big deal.


You may recall last year’s astronomical discovery at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) that for the first time spacetime-warping gravitational waves that emanated from a collision of two black holes about 1.3 billion years ago were observed. The discovery was the best available evidence of a black hole’s intense gravity and radiation.

But we want more data. Taking an image of a black hole’s event horizon would take it a step further. Also a synthesized image from the telescope array would put test Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which predicted the existence of black holes, to the test. Scientists better understand the nature of black holes, how they work and how they shape galaxies and more importantly, that they truly exist.


Einstein’s equations might break down — at the edge of a black hole. At least that is the area if they do, they are most likely too!


Come on Einstein, I’m rooting for you!


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