The very first picture of a black hole

The very first photo of a black hole, one of the most mysterious objects in the Universe, was presented to the world at a press conference held by officials of the virtual radio telescope EHT (Event Horizon Telescope), 

This black hole, whose diameter measures 40 billion kilometers, three million times that of the Earth, has been described as a “monster” by the scientists who observed it.

Celestial rumors suggested the publication of a first photograph of Sagittarius A *, the black hole in the center of our galaxy, but it is rather the image of the black hole in the center of Messier 87 that was presented today. . It is some 55.3 million light years away from Earth and has a mass equivalent to 6.5 billion solar masses. By comparison, Sagittarius A * is “only” 36,000 light-years away from our planet.

We observed what we thought was invisible. We finally saw a black hole and took a picture of it. Here he is, he is there.

 Sheperd Doeleman, Harvard University

The conference was orchestrated by the National Science Foundation from Washington, DC, but representatives of several other international organizations, including European, Chilean, and Japanese, also participated in the meeting.

We did something we thought was impossible a generation ago

 Sheperd Doeleman, Harvard University

A massive telescope

This network of eight terrestrial telescopes was born in 2012. These partner instruments are located all over the world, which has made it possible to create the virtual equivalent of a radio telescope several thousand kilometers in diameter.

The image was born following the analysis of terabytes of data collected in April 2017.

More than 200 astrophysicists participated in the collective effort that uncovered the “silhouette” of the ogre at the center of the M87 galaxy.

You have to know that each telescope has produced huge amounts of data – about 350 terabytes a day – that have been stored in high-performance hard disks filled with helium. These data were then sent to highly specialized supercomputers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany and at MIT Haystack Observatory to be combined. They have been meticulously converted into an image using new computer tools available to international collaboration.

Astrophysicist Olivier Hernandez, director of the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, explains that the challenge of such an observation lies in the synchronization of the various telescopes connected to the network.

The more telescopes are added, the brighter the image, and the greater the distance between each antenna, the better the resolution obtained.

 Olivier Hernandez

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