To capture the image, astronomers have reached the intergalactic space in Messier 87, a gigantic galaxy in the constellation Virgo. There a black hole, which is billions more massive than the sun, releases a violent jet of energy about 5000 light-years into space.
The image offered a definitive, audacious confirmation of the idea, which was so disruptive that even Einstein, from whose equations black holes appeared, did not agree. If too many substances accumulate in one place, the cumulative force becomes overloaded and the city becomes an eternal trap. Here, according to Einstein's theory, matter, space and time end and disappear as a dream.
On Wednesday morning, a dark vision became visceral reality. As far as the Horizont event team can be convinced, the shape of the shadow is circular as predicted by Einstein's theory.
The results were published simultaneously at press conferences in Washington and five other places around the world, which corresponded to international cooperation involving 200 members, nine telescopes and six articles for The Letters for astrophysical journals. When the picture was placed on a screen in Washington, the room and the whole world of astrophists, after a live event, broke the call and the fruits followed by the applause.
"Einstein has to be quite anxious," said Priyamvada Natarajan, astrophysicist at Yale. "His theory has just been tested in exceptional gravity and seems to have stayed."
The Thorne Statue, a astrophysicist from the California Institute of Technology, who awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of gravity waves from black holes in 2017, wrote in e-mail: "It's wonderful to see an almost circular shadow of a black hole. It's undoubtedly a really black hole in the center of the M87 , without signs of deviations from general relativity. "
Janna Levin, a cosmologist and professor at Barnard School in New York, said: "What time to live."
A telescope of the size of the Earth
The image was created on the basis of two years of computer analysis of observations from a network of radio antennas, called the Event Horizon telescope. In total, eight radio observatories in the six mountains and four continents watched the galaxy in Devica for 10 days in April 2017.
The network is named after the edge of a black hole, a point without return; beyond the horizon of events, nor the light can escape the gravitational pull of the black hole.
The secret of black holes has been anxious for more than half a century of astronomers. In the 1950s, astronomers with radio telescopes discovered that the pearly, seemingly gentle galaxies radiated radio energy from their nuclei – much more energy than would be produced by conventional thermonuclear motors that would shine the stars.
Perhaps, astrophysicists thought, energy was freed from a substance that fell to supermassive, dense objects – later called black holes.
Since then, scientists have developed detailed models for how it works. Because the hot, dense water of the hole around the black hole, like the water that descends after the drain, intense pressures and magnetic fields cause the energy of the syringe from both sides. As a paradoxical result, supermassive black holes can be the most luminous objects in the universe.
Einstein's favorite idea
The discovery took place almost exactly a century after images of stars in the sky changed Einstein's glory and confirmed their theory of general relativity as the law of cosmos. This theory attributes gravity to bending space and time with matter and energy, much like a mattress that descends below the bedroom.
For Einstein's surprise, equations have shown that when too many substances or energies concentrate in one place, space-time can collapse, capture matter and light into infinity. They did not like this idea, but today it is a consensus that the universe is broken up by black holes that furiously enjoy everything around them.
There are a lot of gravity tombstones of stars that burned fuel and collapsed. But the other, hidden in the centers of almost all galaxies, are millions or billions more massive than our sun.
Nobody knows how to collect such a carnage of nullity. The guests lose in the original energies of the Big Bang? Monstrous stars that crashed and swallowed their surroundings at the beginning of the universe?
Also, scientists do not know what ultimately happens with what falls into the black hole, nor with the forces that rule in the center, where the theoretical density approaches infinity and smoke stems from the computer of nature.
Zeroing on cosmic monsters
Any doubts about the reality of black holes were revealed three years ago when the laser interferometric observatory for gravitational-wave waves or LIGO detected the collision of two distant black holes that sent shiver through the space-time tissue.
Nevertheless, the issues of gravity and space. "We know there must be something more," said Avery Broderick, a member of Event Horizon, told the audience in Washington. "Black Holes are one of the places where you can search for answers."
Demonstration that the monsters in Devica and the center of the Roman road were really black holes required the measurement of the size of their shadows. It was not an easy job. Both at this distance are extremely small and the resolution of their small details would be a challenge for the largest single telescope.
What's more, the view is blurry with charged particles, such as electrons and protons, which fill the interstellar space. "It's like looking through frozen glass," said Doeleman.
To see in the shadows, astronomers should be able to adjust their radio telescope to shorter wavelengths. They needed a bigger telescope.
Enter the Event Horizon Telescope, a dream baby Doeleman. By combining data from radio telescopes as far away as the southern pole, France, Chile, and Hawaii, using a technique called the very long basic interferometry, Doeleman and his colleagues created a telescope, large as the Earth itself, with the power to solve details as small as orange on the lunar surface.
In April 2017, a network of eight telescopes, including the South Pole telescope, synchronized with atomic watches, looked at both targets for 10 days.
For two years, Event Horizon decreased and compared the results. The data were too extensive for download via the Internet, and were placed on hard drives and flew back to the MIT Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts and at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.
Last year, the team split into four groups to collect images from a data repository. In order to remain objective and safe from bias, the teams had no contact. They prepared for an unsuccessful or ambiguous result – perhaps a blur that could not be read.
"It's surprising how clear this picture is"
Doeleman was optimistic at dinner last year, attended by some of the younger members of the team who showed him the first data for the M87.
"There were clear signatures of the annular structure," he said. After dinner he went to his office and made some rough calculations. "It was one of those big moments," he said. "It's surprising how clear this picture is."
The measurement also provided a solid estimate of the mass of the Device's black hole: 6.5 billion solar masses. This is more difficult than most previous decisions and shows that it may be necessary to repair the masses of other large black holes up.
The telescopic network continues to grow. In April 2018, a telescope was received in Greenland. Another observation run of the Milky Way and M87, which covered twice the amount of data collected in 2017, was carried out. These data were not part of the results published on Wednesday, but will be used to confirm and monitor the behavior of black holes. . Two more antennas are waiting to join the Event Horizon telescope.
"The plan is to make these observations for an indefinite period of time and see how things change," said Doeleman, who started his new career as a culinary shop outside the galactic beast.
"It's surprising that people can turn Earth into a telescope and see a black hole," and even more surprisingly, to do so with this team, he said. "That's the best."
New York Times