Black Holes continue to remain Universe’s spectacular enigma. The only person who came close to describing their behavior with a few set of mathematical equations is none other than India’s mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan – The Man Who Knew Infinity. Long after Srinivasa Ramanujan outlined the mathematical framework, in 2012 a US scientist proved the unproven mathematical relations expressed by Ramanujan. As modern astronomers continue their quest for the elusive black holes, recent groundbreaking series of observations are set to throw more light on one of the most studied objects in our known Universe.
First Pic of a black hole finally snapped
Our Milky Way has been thought to harbor a super-massive black hole at its core. However, repeated attempts to get a glimpse of this black hole went in vain. Not anymore. Astronomers, by linking radio telescopes across the world, have managed to take the first ever image of Sagittarius A* – a super-massive black hole at the core of Milky Way.
The accomplishment is the result of a project called The Event Horizon Telescope, a scientific enterprise that speaks volumes about how important international collaboration and co-operation are to the advancement of astronomy. A long-standing goal in astrophysics is to directly observe the immediate environment of a black hole with angular resolution comparable to the event horizon. Through the project, a network linking radio telescopes across the world has been established. This network acts like a single Earth-sized telescope with the ability to resolve the event horizon of Sagittarius A*.
“The most compelling evidence for this is the recent observation by 1.3 mm VLBI of Schwarzschild radius scale structure in Sgr A*, the compact source of radio, submillimeter, near infrared and X-rays at the center of the Milky Way. Sgr A* is thought to mark the position of a ~4 million solar mass black hole, and because of its proximity and estimated mass presents the largest apparent event horizon size of any black hole candidate in the Universe.”
Taking images wasn’t easy. Researchers had to spend considerable time and effort determining the right weather conditions globally to achieve the highest quality of images. The images may now offer glimpses into the nature and behavior of black holes, including throwing more light on the event horizon. The event horizon has continued to boggle the minds of physicists and astronomers alike. It’s the edge of a black hole beyond which even light cannot escape.
“At the very heart of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, there is a notion that quantum mechanics and general relativity can be melded, that there is a grand, unified theory of fundamental concepts. The place to study that is at the event horizon of a black hole” says Professor Gopal Naryan from UMass Amherst.
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