In doing so, they collect massive amounts of data that can be stitched together to produce an image of the black hole, a staggering engineering feat.
But Miller-Jones says that despite the photo’s astonishing nature, anyone can tell it’s blurry, because of the incredible distances involved — it’s been compared to trying to photograph the bubbles in a glass of beer in New York from a beer garden. in Berlin.
So the plan now is to add up to eight additional telescope sites to the original eight that collected data for the M87 and Sgr A* images. Miller-Jones says this will provide a much sharper image and potentially allow researchers to put together more than one photo.
“The way the EHT works is that each pair of telescopes picks up information, and as the Earth rotates, another pair takes over from the previous one and picks up more information,” he says.
“The problem with Sagittarius A* is that it changes very quickly – it’s a supermassive black hole, but it’s much smaller than M87. So where M87 changes over the course of a few days, Sagittarius A* changes every few minutes.
“That makes it difficult to capture a still image, but with more stations there will be more information in a shorter period of time, giving both a sharper image and the potential for a video.”
dr. Rebecca McElroy, a research fellow at the University of Queensland, was not directly involved in the EHT project, but has spent her entire career working on supermassive black holes.
She says seeing the image of Sgr A*, even after the image of M87 a few years ago, was “surprisingly moving”.
“I didn’t expect to feel the way I felt when I saw the image. I’m not a particularly over-emotional person, but I was absolutely stunned,” she says.
“As someone who studies black holes all day, it was an incredible feeling to see the one at the center of our galaxy.”
Seeing the image has already helped scientists confirm some theories about black holes, and McElroy says more will be learned from a video showing the accretion disk in motion.
“We’ve been staring at supermassive black holes in the Universe for 50 years, but we still don’t really understand how they work,” she says.
“There’s a very complicated physics about how things fall into black holes, how the energy that’s radiated couples with the gas of the environment, and how that affects the galaxy as a whole.
“What I hope is that by staring at this nearby supermassive black hole, we can get a better understanding of how it really works.”
At the press conference to announce the new photo last week, scientists from the EHT project said they had tried to make a video of the existing data, collected in 2017, but the resolution was not high enough.
Adding more telescopes to the EHT would solve that, they said, as well as enable a number of other projects.
dr. Benjamin Pope, an ARC DECRA Fellow at the University of Queensland whose focus is the search for exoplanets, said a comprehensive EHT alongside further study of Sgr A* and M87 would be an incredible resource for scientists in the future.
“We don’t necessarily know why some galaxies have much larger black holes than others; we also don’t know how the most massive formed,” he said.
“Finding out how they formed is one of the biggest open problems in the study of galaxies — how do galaxies form, how do they evolve, why do some of these central black holes get bigger than others — these are all questions that the EHT can help answer.”
Since the data for the M87 and Sgr A* images was collected in 2017, three new telescope sites have been added to the EHT: the Kitt Peak 12-meter telescope in Arizona, the IRAM NOEMA Observatory in the French Alps, and the Greenland Observatory. telescope Projection.
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