Astronomers observing the night sky for ten nights may have successfully taken a closer look inside a black hole and taken an image of the event horizon – otherwise called its point of no return.
The mass of data the researchers collected is now going to the two supercomputers in the United States and Germany. The data will confirm in early 2018 if it is actually the first photo ever captured of the famous black hole, Tech Times reports.
The astronomers’ ultimate goal was to get an image surrounding the famous gravitational sinkhole. Called the event horizon, this boundary is beyond a point where not even light can escape the black hole’s pull.
Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, published in 1915, describes gravity as a property of space and time, and how it affects the universe. The theory predicted black holes.
Heino Falcke of Radboud University in the Netherlands, says,
They are the ultimate endpoint of space and time, and may represent the ultimate limit of our knowledge.
He added that these images would turn black holes from mere theory into concrete things that scientists can actually study.
Stephen Hawking, renowned physicist, found out in 1970s that black holes can disappear, and that information can be lost forever. This is in contrast to quantum mechanics, which states that information can never be lost. The theoretical structure of quantum mechanics could be compromised if it were found that black holes could suck information in for good.
The scientific curiosity led to the Event Horizon Telescope, an international collaboration by eight observatories that intends to create a virtual telescope dish as wide as the Earth. It started on April 4, looking at two supermassive black holes: Sagittarius A, which lies at the core of the Milky Way and is four million times the size of the sun; and the Messier 87, a black hole in a neighboring galaxy some 53 million light-years away.
The Event Horizon Telescope examined the area around each of the black holes before, but this is the first time the project made use of the South Pole telescope as well as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile. This allowed the telescope a bigger, more accurate range.
Astronomers are hopeful that the image returned will demonstrate the flow of material moving in and out of the black hole.