TECH Coming up: The first photo of a black hole

TECH

Coming up: The first photo of a black hole

People's Daily app

18:23, April 10, 2019

The world is finally about to see a black hole -- not an artist's impression or a computer-generated likeness, but the real thing.

At six press conferences across the globe scheduled for 1300 GMT on Wednesday, scientists will unveil the first results from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), conceived precisely for that purpose. 

Of all the forces in the Universe that we cannot see -- including dark energy and dark matter -- none has frustrated human curiosity as thoroughly as the invisible, star-devouring monsters known as black holes.

Yet, the phenomena are so powerful that nothing nearby -- not even light -- can escape their gravitational pull.

What is black hole?

A black hole is a celestial object that compresses a huge mass into an extremely small space. The more mass, the larger the black hole.

At the same scale of compression, Earth's mass would fit inside a thimble, while the Sun's would be a mere six kilometres from edge to edge.

According to the laws of general relativity, published a century ago by Albert Einstein, the gravitational pull of these omnivorous monsters is so strong that no object can escape if it comes too close. 

How to take a picture of a black hole?

The EHT is unlike any star-gazing instrument ever devised.

Eight such radio telescopes scattered across the globe -- in Hawaii, Arizona, Spain, Mexico, Chile, and the South Pole -- zeroed in Sag A* and M87 on four different days in April 2017.

Each is at least a big as a football pitch. Together, they form a virtual telescope more than 12,000 kilometres across, the diameter of Earth.

Data collected by the far-flung array was to be collated by supercomputers at MIT in Boston and in Bonn, Germany.

The first ever images of the black hole will be released simultaneously on April 10 at 21:00 BJT in Shanghai, Taipei, Tokyo, Washington, Brussels and Santiago.

People's Daily will broadcast the Shanghai event live at 21:00 BJT, please stay tuned. 

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