Astronomers hope to capture first image of supermassive black hole

The Event Horizon Telescope is the product of a global collaboration between 13 institutes, representing 10 different nations.

The collision of two black holes - a tremendously powerful event detected for the first time ever by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO - is seen in this still image from a computer simulation released in February. Scientists for the first time detected gravitational waves, ripples in space and time hypothesized by Albert Einstein a century ago, in a landmark discovery that opens a new window for studying the cosmos. Reuters (Representational Image)

Astronomers are hoping to take an image of a supermassive black hole for the first time ever using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). According to reports, it is not just any black hole, it is Sagittarius A*, the behemoth in a feeding frenzy at the centre of the Milky Way, our very own galaxy.

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a global virtual telescope, is the product of a global collaboration between 13 institutes, representing 10 different nations. A worldwide network of telescopes has been linked together to form a telescope disk almost as enormous as the Earth itself.

The project, which is led by scientists from the Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands, started its first observation run by EHT on April 5, 2017, and it was scheduled to end on April 14, 2017. The telescope hopes to capture the first photograph of a blackhole's event horizon. So far all the images of black holes were based on computer simulations.

Almost 20 years ago, Heino Falcke, a Radboud astronomer came up with the idea of this pioneering experiment. At present, he is the chairman of the Scientific council of EHT. Falcke received an ERC grant for his "BlackHoleCam" along with Michael Kramer from Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, and Luciano Rezzolla from the University of Frankfurt.

Several other astronomers from the university will map radio telescopes across the globe from Hawaii and Mexico, to Chile and the US, as the first surveillance is carried out by EHT.

"It is the challenge of doing something that has never been attempted before. It is the start of an adventurous journey towards a black hole," Falcke said in a statement.

"If everything works as expected and the weather is fair on all telescope locations we might have a chance to get a first glimpse of the event horizon. However, I think we need more observation campaigns and eventually more telescopes in the network to make a really good image," he added.

The authorities will release the results of this first attempt to capture an image of a black hole only after 2018. This is because the hard disk that will receive the recordings from the South Pole Telescope can only be collected in October of 2017 at the earliest due to weather constraints.

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