We will finally get to see how a black hole really looks when the international scientific team unveils the first photo of a black hole. This moment will be crucial, as it tests Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
The results from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project will be revealed today at a news conference set in Washington, Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei, and Tokyo. The EHT project began in 2012, and its mission was to observe the environment close to a black hole. With a huge network of telescopes from all around the globe, the international team of scientists was able to get photographs of a black hole.
Will their appearance prove Einstein’s theory of general relativity is right, and if not, will it completely change it?
The Event Horizon Telescope isn’t exactly seeing a black hole’s event horizon. Rather, it is imaging the “shadow,” a region about 5x larger that would appear dark to us as a result of the deflection of light by strong gravitational effects.
— Robert McNees (@mcnees) April 10, 2019
Testing The Theory of General Relativity
The event horizon of a black hole is the point where everything from stars, planets, dust, and every kind of radiation gets swallowed by the black hole.
The EHT project focused on two supermassive black holes that exist at the center of two different galaxies. The research will test the 1915 theory of general relativity by Einstein, which also helps scientists predict the size and the shape of a black hole. If the predictions based on the theory are wrong, the entire theory will need to be rethought, noted Reuters.
One of the black holes is in the center of our galaxy, and it is called Sagittarius A*. It’s 26,000 light years from Earth, and it has the mass of 4 million Suns.
The second black hole is M87 which is in the center of the Virgo A galaxy and 54 million light-years away from Earth.
Supermassive black holes are the biggest of their kind, which continues to grow as they devour more matter and radiation and they might also merge with other black holes.
Getting to photograph a black hole is very difficult, as black holes don’t allow light to escape from them, so scientists have to look at a ring of light at the edge of the event horizon, where the black region should be the black hole. That region is also known as a shadow or silhouette.
According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, the shadow should be a perfect circle, and if not, it means that the theory isn’t right.