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What the Quest to Image Black Holes Could tell us About Our Universe
One of the bright spots in the dark years of the 2020s was, paradoxically, the pictures of black holes, the first direct visual evidence for the astronomical phenomenon. Taken by astronomers with the Event Horizon Telescope, the images splashed across the front pages of newspapers around the world, as the 2019 pictures captured a black hole in a galaxy millions of light-years away from us. Now in 2022, scientists have revealed the first image of the supermassive black hole that squats at the center of our own galaxy.
Named Sagittarius A*, this black hole is no threat to us Earthlings. But it could help us understand how the Milky Way formed, as well as the strange physics that happen in and near black holes.
Hours after the first image of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way was released, scientists from the Harvard and Smithsonian Institutions discussed its significance in an online panel. So, what was explored in it? And what significance do the pictures hold?
Welcome to Space World. In today’s video we are going to talk about what the quest to image black holes could tell us about our universe. So, if you want to know more about it then stay with us until the end of the video.
Not so long ago, the idea of photographing a black hole was as quixotic as photographing a unicorn. Now scientists have not one, but two images of two different supermassive black holes, and they both look magical, like flaming doughnuts.
“I remember when black holes were purely theoretical,” said Ellen Stofan, assistant secretary for science and research at the Smithsonian Institution and former NASA chief scientist, during Thursday’s post-disclosure panel. The conversation, moderated by Stofan, brought together four members of a Harvard-led team of scientists who, in 2019, presented the world with the first image of a black hole — a giant named M87 after its galaxy Messier 87. Hours before the panel discussion, the team shared a second image — close-up of the star Sagittarius A (or Sgr A*), a black hole snacking on light and space debris at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy.
Scientists figured out that if they pointed telescopes all around the Earth at the same spot at the same time, and cross-referenced the data, it could act as though it was one big telescope covering the size of the Earth. This is what the “Event Horizon Telescope” really is, a collection of telescopes around the world that are normally used for other purposes.
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