About one year ago, we took the first-ever photo of a black hole. And now, a team of scientists have taken things to the next level by performing calculations to further predict how we could see black holes up close and personal in far more detail in the future.
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In April 2019, scientists unveiled the first image ever taken of a black hole. The photo of the supermassive black hole M87* was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, or EHT. Comprising eight radio telescopes around the world working together, the EHT is effectively a telescope the size of the planet.
Black holes have been historically difficult to capture in an image as they are by nature invisible. And so, technically, EHT didn’t take a photo of M87* but rather captured a picture of the black hole’s shadow. Knowing the size of the black hole’s shadow against the accretion disk can help determine the mass of the black hole, and currently the EHT is accurate to within about 10%.
But what lies between a black hole’s shadow and the accretion disk? Well, Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity predicts there is another layer called a photon ring and that is exactly what scientists are working to capture an image of next.
Find out more in this Elements.
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This Massive Black Hole Is Blasting a Jet at 99% the Speed of Light
Event Horizon Telescope
The Event Horizon Telescope is an international collaboration capturing images of black holes using a virtual Earth-sized telescope.
There Are Infinite Rings of Light Around Black Holes. Here’s How We Could See Them
If a passing photon is a bit too close, it will get trapped in orbit around the black hole. This creates what is called a “photon ring” or “photon sphere”, a perfect ring of light predicted to surround the black hole, inside the inner rim of the accretion disc, but outside the event horizon.
Infinite Visions Were Hiding in the First Black Hole Image’s Rings
If they could increase the size of their event horizon network by adding an antenna in space, Dr. Doeleman said, they could gain enough resolution to see individual photon rings, as they are called, turning the event horizon into “a true cosmic laboratory for testing our most fundamental theories.”
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