In doing so, they collect massive amounts of data that can be stitched together to produce an image of the black hole, an amazing technical feat.
But Miller-Jones says that despite the stunning nature of the image, anyone can tell it’s blurry, due to 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 more telescope sites to the original eight that collected data for the M87 and Sgr A* images. Miller-Jones says this will give a much sharper image and potentially allow researchers to piece together more than a photo.
“The way the EHT works is that each pair of telescopes picks up information, and as the Earth spins, 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 in days, Sagittarius A* changes every few minutes. .
“This makes it difficult to create a still image, but with more stations there will be more information in a shorter amount of time, giving both a sharper image and the potential for a video .”
Dr Rebecca McElroy, a researcher at the University of Queensland, was not directly involved in the EHT project but has worked on supermassive black holes throughout her career.
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 what I felt when I saw the picture. I’m not a particularly emotional person, but I was absolutely amazed,” she says.
“As someone who studies black holes all day, seeing the one at the center of our galaxy was an incredible feeling.”
Seeing the image has already helped scientists confirm a number of black hole theories, and McElroy says even more will be learned from a video showing the accretion disk in motion.
“We’ve spent 50 years observing supermassive black holes across the universe, but we still don’t really understand how they work,” she says.
“There’s very complicated physics around how things fall into black holes, how the energy that’s emitted couples with the gas in the surrounding area, and how that affects the galaxy as a whole.
“What I’m hoping is that by looking at this supermassive black hole up close, we’ll get a better understanding of how it actually works.”
At the press conference to announce the new photo last week, EHT scientists said they had tried to produce a video from existing data, collected in 2017, but the resolution was not high enough. high.
Adding more telescopes to the EHT would solve that problem, they said, while enabling a number of other projects.
Dr Benjamin Pope, ARC DECRA Fellow at the University of Queensland, whose focus is exoplanet research, said that beyond further study of Sgr A* and M87, an expanded EHT would be an incredible tool for future scientists.
“We don’t necessarily know why some galaxies have much larger black holes than others; nor do we know how the massive ones even formed,” he said.
“Finding 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 grow larger than others – these are all questions the EHT can help answer.”
Since collecting data from the M87 and Sgr A* images in 2017, three new telescope sites have been added to the EHT: the 12-meter Kitt Peak Telescope in Arizona, the IRAM NOEMA observatory in the French Alps, and the from Greenland. Project.
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