Sagittarius A* Imagery: A Monumental Scientific Achievement

On Thursday, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration released imagery of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*. It is a direct detection of one of the most elusive types of astronomical objects and the culmination of more than a century of theoretical and experimental astronomical studies. The results are also a brilliant demonstration of the possibilities created by human labor coordinated on an international and scientific basis.

More than 300 astronomers and hundreds of engineers and support staff from 60 institutions in 20 countries and regions on seven continents performed the observations, processed the data, and maintained the technical infrastructure necessary for such a huge undertaking. After the observations of Sgr A* in 2017, thousands of terabytes of data were transported to the MIT Haystack Observatory and the Max Planck Institute of Study to be processed and analyzed on some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. Five years of work proved necessary to characterize and understand the results.

X-ray and infrared images from NASA’s Chandra and Hubble space telescopes, respectively, were used to create this image of the Milky Way’s galactic core to complement and expand on images produced by the Event Horizon Telescope of the black hole. central supermassive of the galaxy. Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO, NASA/HST/STScI, collaboration with the Event Horizon telescope

The immediate result is the product of more than two decades of planning by the collaboration, which was launched in 2009 with the primary goal of observing the two largest black holes in the sky as seen from Earth, Sagittarius A* (Sgr A *) and the black hole at the center of the galaxy Messier 87. To do this, the collaboration incorporated radio telescopes from around the world and combined their observing capabilities to see astronomical objects never seen directly before.

Telescopes involved in capturing the data needed to produce the final graphic include the Atacama Large Millimeter Array and the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment in Chile, the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope in Arizona, the IRAM 30m Telescope in Spain, the James Clerk Telescope Maxwell and the Submillimeter Array in Hawaii, the Large Millimeter Telescope in Mexico, and the South Pole Telescope in Antarctica.

The graphic design produced is also a resounding blow against all forms of irrationalist thought, be it the mysticism of religious obscurantism or postmodernism and its assertion that all ‘narratives’ are equally valid. There is in fact an objective, material reality, which is governed by physical, knowable laws.

More in-depth results are expected to follow in the months and years to come. EHT completed its latest observing campaign in March, which included three new telescopes that will enable even better imaging. And now that data has been collected and published on the collaboration’s two main targets, it will explore other, even more esoteric regions of the Universe, in particular the galactic-scale energetic jets produced by supermassive black holes when large amounts of gas and dust flow into it. .

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