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The international Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) consortium, which aims to capture the first images of the edges of black holes, released its first results today (April 10). The secret of the project's success is how it links radio dishes across the globe to create a virtual telescope about the size of Earth.
Black holes have gravitational pulls so powerful that, past thresholds known as their event horizons, nothing can escape, not even light. Although this means that black holes simply appear black, researchers still aim to capture the best photos they can of the objects' surroundings, which may glow with light. These images may reveal secrets about the mysterious structure of black holes and how they influence their environments.
EHT - Aims - Image - Holes - Millions
The EHT aims to image supermassive black holes millions to billions of times the mass of the sun. For instance, the black hole Sagittarius A*, at the center of the Milky Way, is about 4.3 million times the mass of our sun, while the black hole at the heart of the M87 galaxy, which it has now released an image of, is about 6 billion solar masses.
Related: What Is a Black Hole Event Horizon (and What Happens There)?
Image - University - Arizona - Plasma - Environment
A simulated image by the University of Arizona shows the turbulent plasma in the extreme environment around a supermassive black hole.
EHT hunts for a shadow, or silhouette, against a bright background — the contours of the event horizon. Although the shadow of Sagittarius A* is about 30 times the diameter of the sun, this black hole lies about 26,000 light-years from Earth, and so, from our perspective, the shadow is about the same size as an orange would appear on the moon. The black hole at the heart of M87 is about 2,000 times farther away from Earth than Sagittarius A* and is thus even...
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