Capturing any images from space has proven to be incredibly difficult—until now. Recently, scientists in a research team using the powerful telescope EHT have been able to defeat all odds of capturing a picture of a famous black hole. Just to capture one image of this feat took the team multiple modifications, data computations, and various algorithms in order to produce a “clear” result. The most astounding part of this accomplishment is the determination of the astronomers and physicists involved as the entire project required the investment of over 10 years of diligent work.
So What Exactly Is A Black Hole?
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a black hole is “a cosmic body of extremely intense gravity from which nothing, not even light, can escape.” The fact that light cannot escape from this phenomenon results as a difficult process for scientists to extract a reflection from the black hole. Without the reflection of light, images cannot be captured in space. Another difficulty is the “singularity” of a black hole, which can be defined as how a black hole has an infinite density and zero volume. The singularity can be imagined as the center of the phenomenon and the “event horizon” serves as the exterior of the black hole as can be pictured in the image captured.
The Incredible EHT Telescope
As mentioned before, the amounts of algorithms and modifications required in order to allow all the technology to function properly under the conditions set by the black hole were considered “endless” by the project team. The Event Horizon Telescope, or EHT, was used with the process of Very Long Baseline Interferometry. Very Long Baseline Interferometry, or VRBI, is basically the use of multiple powerful telescopes to produce an image of a very far away object. One of the first steps performed by the team included solving the major problem of the distance between the telescope and the black hole. The black hole depicted was 53 million light years away—a distance far too great for the 2008 version of the EHT. Therefore, the researchers decided to set up eight EHTs and combined the light emitted from the selected EHT locations to produce one image. The telescopes had a unique algorithm, developed by Katie Bouman, to receive the data. However, while this plan seemed plausible, it was complicated, and another problem arose: data overload. As the telescopes were located in different observatories (some hundreds of miles apart from each other), each telescope experienced a data overload. Therefore, Bouman proposed to build large hard drives that had to be delivered to each observatory in large trucks in order to retrieve such large amounts of data. Luckily, the solution worked and the project continued. And now, as seen in the media, the project proved successful as the research team pieced together the thousands of images provided by the EHT devices to provide the science world with a fuzzy, yet incredible image of a black hole.
Now some of you may be asking: “What is the importance of this image?” The fact that the image has been retrieved proves that the same technique can be used to prove if a black hole called “Sagittarius A” indeed exists in the center of the Milky Way.
It has been speculated, yet never proven through any images. Another important theory involved is Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, which can be summarized as “the force of gravity in fact arises from the curvature of space and time.” If more black holes are documented, then scientists and researchers alike can challenge, perfect, and support the theory even more.