Astronomers Are Seriously Close To Photographing A Black Hole

“We will understand things about black holes that we have never understood before”

Image via Wikipedia

If photographs really do take a little piece of your soul, what happens when you point the camera at a super massive black hole? After this week’s news cycle, I’d bet most of us are willing to find out. On Wednesday, scientists from around the world brought us one step closer to viewing a black hole by coordinating their observations and effectively turning our planet into one giant telescope.

For the next 9 days, they will continue collaborating in an attempt to produce images of the super massive black hole at the center of our galaxy, otherwise known as Sagittarius A*, as part of the project Event Horizon Telescope. We can expect to see results later this year or early 2018 and can move forward from the days of relying on illustrations and theories to get a sense of black holes.

In a statement, Gopal Narayanan, who teaches astronomy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said the object “is the best lab we have to study the extreme physics out there.” Narayanan, who is involved with the global effort, added, “These are the observations that will help us to sort through all the wild theories about black holes. And there are many wild theories. With data from this project, we will understand things about black holes that we have never understood before.”

So far, astronomers are fairly certain black holes exist because of the way they manipulate their surroundings and because of the way stars seem to be orbiting a relatively small area of black nothingness, it is believed black holes provide an unimaginably dense center from which nothing can escape. For instance, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way is believed to have a mass 4 million times that of our sun. And at a distance of 26,000 light years, Narayanan compares it to trying to see a grapefruit on the moon’s surface, hence the Earth-sized telescope currently in deployment.