Monday, December 8, 2014

Astronomers Are Getting Ready To Take The Image Of The Century And Here's What It Will Look Like

An artist's drawing of a black hole named Cygnus X-1. It formed when a large star caved in. This black hole pulls matter from blue star beside it.
Researchers studying the universe are ramping up to take the "image of the century" — the first image of a supermassive black hole.
Since the 18th century, astronomers have discussed the possibility of exotic objects in space so massive that their gravitational grip swallows everything that dares to get too close, including light. We call these objects black holes, but in truth we do not know what a black hole really is because we've never actually seen one.
The evidence for the existence of black holes, however, is compelling:
"We have abundant evidence that black holes — or something very much like them — exist," Todd Thompson, astronomy professor at Ohio State University, told Business Insider earlier this year. "This evidence comes from the orbits of stars around the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy."
Scientists will continue to argue the contrary until physical, observational evidence is provided.
Now, a dedicated team of astrophysicists armed with a global fleet of powerful telescopes is out to change that. If they succeed, they will snap the first picture of the monstrously massive black hole thought to live at the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
It will be the "image of the century" according to scientists at the MIT Haystack Observatory, one of the 13 institutes from around the world involved with the project.
This ambitious project, called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), is incredibly tricky, but recent advances in their research are encouraging the team to push forward.
EHT needs to be so complex because black holes by definition do not emit light, making them invisible. In fact, black holes survive by gobbling up light and any other matter — nearby dust, gas, and stars — that fall into their powerful clutches.
How To Glimpse A Black Hole
So, how do you see something that is invisible? The answer leads us to the most advanced sub-millimeter telescopes in use — telescopes that detect wavelengths of light longer than the human eye can see.
The EHT team is going to zoom in on a miniscule spot on the sky toward the center of the Milky Way where they believe to be the event horizon of a supermassive black hole weighing in at 4 million times the mass of our sun.
Every black hole has a point of no return, called the event horizon. Once light, or anything else in the universe, passes the event horizon, it never escapes and is swallowed up. Forever.
We can still see the material, however, right before it falls into eternal darkness. The EHT team is going to try to glimpse this ring of radiation that outlines the event horizon. Experts call this outline the "shadow" of a black hole, and it's this shadow that the EHT team is ultimately after to prove the existence of black holes.
Below is a perfectly clear computer-generated image on the left of what scientists think the shadow will look like, and on the right is what they expect to actually see with the resolving power of today's current technology.

article taken from Yahoo! (original link)



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