Thanks to data collected from the Even Horizons Telescope team and their network of telescopes, this year could be the year we see an image of a black hole. Within the next 12 months, astrophysicists believe they can accomplish this thus-far impossible task—and it could completely transform the way we think about the universe.
Albert Einstein first predicted the existence of black holes in his theory of general relativity, though he was never entirely certain about their existence. Now, though they are widely accepted, there has never been solid evidence that they exist. The EHT, a network of telescopes around the globe, could change this by providing all of the components necessary to capture an image of one.
The process will require ultra-high magnification and the ability to see through the gas in the Milky Way. To accomplish this, the EHT team created a “virtual Earth-sized telescope,” synchronizing dishes scattered across the planet and programming them to observe the same point in space at the exact same time. By combining the data, astrophysicists will have access to an image that could have been produced by an Earth-sized telescope.
If black hole imaging is successful, it could provide important insights into our universe.
“The impact of black holes on the universe is huge,” says EHT Director Sheperd Doeleman. “It’s now believed that the supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies and the galaxies they live in evolve together over cosmic times, so observing what happens near the event horizon will help us understand the universe on larger scales.”
“Of course, we have no guarantee of what we’ll see, and nature could throw us a curveball,” Doeleman added. “However, the EHT is now up and running, so over the next several years, we will work towards making an image to see what a black hole really looks like.”