The first real image of a black hole. Tomorrow!

Tomorrow, April 10, 2019 awaits usa historic event that absolutely all astronomers in the world are waiting for. Participants in the Event Horizon Telescope project, which unites several radio telescopes located in different parts of our planet, are going to demonstrate for the first time a real image of two black holes. One of the objects, having a mass of 4.1 million solar cells, is located in the center of our Milky Way galaxy and is hidden in the depths of dense clusters of interstellar dust and gas. The second object is located in the heart of the giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87), which is in the constellation Virgo. The object has a mass equivalent to 7 billion solar and produces powerful energy jets at a distance of several thousand light years.

If the calculations of scientists were correct andObservations on the objects were successful, then tomorrow we will be able to see images of at least one or even two black holes, which are likely to appear before us in the form of two small shadows, highlighted by hot clouds of gas and dust, as well as very powerful energy radiation. Whether these objects will be shaped - round, oval or of a completely different kind - will depend on whether they rotate (and at what speed), on how right Einstein was in their description, and also on how active they are.

The real image of these shadows, which are soEinstein and Hawking argued a lot, in which the usual laws of physics cease to act, in which time stops, any matter and light disappears without a trace, ceasing to exist in the physical world known to us and leaving behind only memories, should be permanently stored in the memory of any astrophysicist. For the first time in history, scientists will be able to look right into the very heart of infinity.

Of course, all this will happen only ifif astronomers could actually see them. According to the publication of the New York Times, the Event Horizon project team throughout the entire period of observation and analysis of the data received practically did not report on progress. Therefore, no one can say with certainty whether they were really able to get real images of black holes.

Radio source Sagittarius A * in the center of our galaxy

Despite the complete secrecy, the headEvent Horizon Telescope project Shep Doleman states that his team works "with full dedication, checking every result four times." Doulman recently visited the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said nothing, but looked as if he and his team really had something to show and tell.

Announcement of the results of a two-year studyit is planned to be held simultaneously in six places all over the world at once, which indicates that it can tell how important this project is for the international scientific community. For example, one presentation will be held at the National Press Club in Washington, another press conference will be held by Frans Cordova, head of the National Science Foundation. The team of scientists of the project Event Horizon Telescope is going to stay in the National Museum of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

It is noteworthy that the presentation will take place almosta century later, since the distorted images of the stars made Einstein truly famous and consolidated his general theory of relativity (GTR) as the unbreakable law of the cosmos. It said and described how with the presence of mass and energy, gravity is able to distort space and time, allowing the contents of the Universe, including light, to work and follow not only straight lines, but also very curved paths.

GTR has led science to a new concept of understandingspace, in which space-time can tremble, bend, expand, twist and finally disappear forever in the mouth of black holes. To the surprise of Einstein himself, his equations showed that a huge concentration of matter and energy in one place can destroy spacetime, absorbing matter and light into infinite nothing. The scientist did not like this idea, but modern science believes that the Universe contains many black holes that are ready to devour everything in its path. And many of them represent the final stage of the evolution of collapsing stars.

Any doubts in favor of the existence of theseObjects disappeared three years ago thanks to the discovery of the staff of the Laser-Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). With the help of very sensitive equipment, scientists heard an “echo” of a pair of black holes very far from us, which caused a “tremor” of space-time tissue, which, like waves from a stone thrown into water, spread throughout the Universe and were caught by LIGO equipment. Since then, astrophysicists have observed several more collisions of black holes. As it turned out, it became so trivial that even among scientists these events ceased to cause reverent awe.

Nevertheless, astronomers are very intrigued by the opportunity to finally see what was previously hidden from their eyes.

“Yes, I would really like to see her image. Knowing the laws of physics and mathematics, I perfectly understand that the phrase “to see a black hole” does not sound quite right, but the opportunity to personally take a look at the real picture of what we all wanted to see for so long is simply incredibly cool! ”, Comments Daniel Holz from the University of Chicago.

“It is very interesting even from a technical point of view - to personally see the image of a black hole,” says Yale University astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan.

As pointed out by the New York Times interviewees, especiallyWhat is exciting for them is that these black holes are not ordinary “star corpses”, but real giant monsters located in the very center of their galaxies, directly affecting the cosmic weather and creating energy emissions for thousands of light years.

Even if these images are not soimpressive, as we all expect, the opportunity to see at least a small part of these entities will make an invaluable contribution to their research and understanding of what they really are and how they are able to demonstrate all the incredible powers and opportunities that are attributed to them.

In the center of the Milky Way, at a distance of about 26000 light years from Earth is a source of radio emission, called Sagittarius A *. By tracking the orbits of the stars around this central hub, astronomers were able to calculate the following: whatever it is, it has four million solar masses. The object does not emit visible or infrared light. If this is not a black hole, then scientists are not even ready to guess what it really is. The only way to find out for sure is to try to peer through the surrounding dust and gas and, through all the truths and foul practices, conduct direct observation of what is there.

Make it overwhelming. According to Einstein's standard calculations, the diameter of a black hole, having a mass of 4.1 million solar, will be only about 24 million kilometers - a tiny dot on a cosmic scale and taking into account the distance of observations. Fortunately, the gravity of the black hole itself allows it to look at least twice as large for us. But even in this case, an attempt to see it will be similar to an attempt to see an orange on the Moon with the naked eye.

To see something so small witha large distance will require a truly huge and very powerful telescope. It was here that the Event Horizon radio telescope, named after the border in the space-time surrounding the black hole and the so-called point of no return, came in handy. All that crosses it is doomed to be swallowed up into infinity. The project is the brainchild of astrophysicist Shep Doleman, who seriously thought about its implementation after studying mysterious activities in the centers of supermassive radio galaxies, such as M87.

Galaxy M87. Relativistic jet escapes from the center of the galaxy

Event Horizon is a networkradio telescopes operating on the principle of radio interferometry with superlong bases. Telescopes are very far apart from each other. For example, one is the South Pole, the other in France, the third in Chile, another one on the island of Hawaii. In fact, it allowed Dr. Doleman and his colleagues to create a giant Earth-sized virtual radio telescope. Work on its creation was carried out over 10 years. Finally, in April 2017, the network of eight telescopes was synchronized with an atomic clock and fixed its eyes on the center of the Milky Way, as well as on the center of the super-giant galaxy M87. Continuous observations continued for 10 days.

La Silla Observatory, located in Chile and owned by the European Southern Observatory. One of the stations that participated in the Event Horizon project

The next two years, scientists spent decodingand analysis of the data. The volumes of this information turned out to be so huge (each of the telescopes collected 500 TB of information) that it was impossible to transmit them via the Internet. Therefore, the data was stored on hard disks (1024 pieces in total) and sent to the Haystack Observatory (owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), as well as to the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn (Germany). Both laboratories have supercomputers capable of disassembling and structuring such a huge amount of information.

Data from a radio telescope located in the Souththe pole could not be obtained until December 2017. As Dr. Doulman notes, “the culprit was the Antarctic winter, a time when it was impossible to bring anything and remove it from the South Pole.”

In 2018, the team of astronomers divided intofour independent groups that were engaged in the compilation of images of black holes from the data obtained. For the objectivity of the results, none of the groups came into contact with each other, says Dr. Doleman. Despite the final stage of work, another installation in Greenland joined the project of the Event Horizon virtual radio telescope in April of the same year. After that, monitoring the centers of the Milky Way and the galaxy M87 was conducted again. And this time the data was collected twice as much as during the observations in 2017.

“Our capabilities have increased many times since then,” comments Doleman.

New observational data were not sampled foranalysis, whose result will be announced tomorrow, but they allow astronomers to check with the information obtained in 2017, as well as to trace possible changes.

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