An international network of radio telescopes has created the first close-up of a black hole that became known this morning (April 10). Called Event Horizon Telescope, the collaboration confirmed decades of predicting how the light would behave around these dark objects and set the stage for a new era of black hole astronomy.
"Amazing," said Erin Bonning, an astrophysicist and scientist at Emory University who was not involved in the imaging efforts.
The announcement that he was tensed about a week and a half in advance and was both incredibly exciting and almost completely surprising and without new physics, physics has not collapsed, no unexpected features of black holes have been discovered almost perfect for illustrations of black holes we know in science and pop culture The big difference is that it's much blurry. [9 Weird Facts About Black Holes]
There were several important issues related to black holes, but they remained unsolved Bonning.
On the left shows an image taken with the CHANDRA X-ray Telescope at the same time as the event shows Horizons Telescope a Relatavistian plane crossing the Virga A galaxy. On the right side you can see the silhouette of the black hole of the Event Horizons Telescope.
(Photo: © Source: Roentgen: NASA / CXC / University of Villanova / J. Neilsen, Radio: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration) [1
9659010] All supermassive black holes have the ability to absorb nearby matter, most of them up to their own Absorb event horizon and spit the rest into space at near-light speed in blazing towers. Astrophysicists call them "relativistic jets".
And the Blacks The hole in the center of Virgo A (also called Messier 87) is known for its impressive jets that spit matter and radiation into space. His relativistic jets are so big that they can completely escape the surrounding galaxy.
A 1998 Hubble picture shows the relatavista jet escaping from Virgo A.
(Image: © JA Biretta et al., Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA), NASA)
And the physicists know the big blows of how this happens: The material accelerates to extreme speeds when it enters the gravity of the Part of it escapes while this inertia is maintained. But scientists do not agree on how this happens. This image and related papers do not yet provide details.
When found to be relevant, the observations of Event Horizons Telescope, which occupy a relatively small space, are linked to the much larger images of relativistic jets.
While physicists still have no answers, she said there is a fair chance that they will come soon – especially when the collaboration produces images of their second target: the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A * at the center of our own galaxy, the No jets like those produced by Virgo A. A comparison of the two images could provide some clarity.
How do general relativity and quantum mechanics fit together?
When physicists come together to talk about a truly exciting new discovery, one can expect someone to make a suggestion that might help explain "quantum gravity."
That's because quantum gravity is the big unknown in physics. For about a century, physicists have worked with two different rules: general relativity, which covers very large things like gravity, and quantum mechanics, which covers very small things. The problem is that the two rule books contradict each other directly. Quantum mechanics can not explain gravity, and relativity theory can not explain quantum behavior.
One day, physicists hope to link the two together in a large, unified theory that is probably associated with a kind of quantum gravity.
And before the announcement Today there was speculation that this could lead to a breakthrough. (If the general relativity predictions had not been confirmed in the picture, this would have brought the ball to the front.) During a National Science Foundation press conference, Avery Broderick, a physicist at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and a co-worker Project has been suggested that this type of answers could come.
But Bonning was skeptical of this claim. This image was completely surprising from a general perspective of relativity and therefore did not offer any new physics that could close the gap between the two fields, said Bonning.
Still, it's not crazy that people were hoping for answers from this kind of observation, because the edge of a black hole shadow brings relativistic forces into tiny, quantum-sized spaces.
"We would expect quantum gravity to be very, very close to the event horizon or very, very early in the early universe." [when everything was packed into a tiny space] she said.
But with the still fuzzy resolution of Event Horizons Telescope, she said, we're unlikely to find such effects, even if scheduled upgrades arrive.
Were theories of Stephen Hawking as correct as Einstein?
The greatest physicist Stephen Hawkings former physicist physicist was the idea of "Hawking radiation" – that black holes are not really black, but in the course of time give small amounts of radiation. The result was hugely important as it showed that once a black hole stops growing it will shrink very slowly due to the loss of energy.
The Horizons Telescope event, however, did not confirm or deny the theory that anyone expected it.
Black giant holes like that of Jungfrau A produce only minimal hawking radiation compared to their total size. While our most advanced instruments can now spot the bright lights of their event horizons, there's little chance they'll ever tear out the ultra-thin glow of the surface of a supermassive black hole.
These results will likely come from the smallest black holes – theoretical, short-lived objects that are so small that you could pick up their entire event horizon. With the possibility of close-up observations and much more radiation compared to their overall size, humans could possibly figure out how to produce or find such and recognize their radiation.
What did we actually learn from this picture? 19659019] At first the physicists learned that Einstein was right again. The edge of the shadow, as far as the event can see Horizons Telescope, is a perfect circle, just as physicists in the 20th century had predicted with Einstein's equations of general relativity.
"I do not think anyone should be surprised if another test of general relativity is passed," said Bonning. "If they had gone on stage and said the general theory of relativity was broken, I would have fallen off the chair."
The result, with more immediate practical consequences, she said, was that the image allowed scientists to accurately measure the mass of this supermassive black hole located 55 million light-years away in the heart of the Jungfrau A galaxy. It is 6.5 billion times more massive than our sun.
That's a big deal, Bonning said, because it could change the way physicists weigh the supermassive black holes in the hearts of other, more distant or smaller galaxies.
Now "The physicists have a fairly accurate measurement of the mass of the supermassive black hole in the heart of the Milky Way," Bonning said, because they can observe how gravity moves individual stars in their neighborhoods.
But in other galaxies, our telescopes can not see the motion of individual stars, he said you. So physicists are taking larger measurements: how the mass of the black hole affects the light coming from different star layers in the galaxy, or how its mass affects the light coming from the various layers of free-floating gas in the galaxy ,
But these calculations are imperfect, she said.
"You have to model a very complex system," she said.
And the two methods lead to slightly different results in each observed galaxy physicist. But at least for the black hole in Virgo A, we now know that one method is right.
"Our determination of 6.5 billion solar masses lands directly on the determination of the heavier mass of [the light coming from stars]," Sera Markoff, an astrophysicist from the University of Amsterdam and an associate of the project, said in the press conference.
That does not mean that physicists will use this approach to measuring black hole masses, Bonning said. However, it provides an important point for refining future calculations.
Originally published on Live Science .