In two weeks’ time, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is going to introduce the world to new information about our galaxy.
It’s anyone’s guess what the announcement will be, but we have reason to be excited based on what we know about their recent efforts – the results being presented are from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, which for the first time Was responsible for producing the image of a black hole in 2019.
For years now the EHT project has been studying the heart of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, which is home to the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A*.
They’re making a great deal out of what they’ve found out.
Since scientists are hosting simultaneous press conferences around the world, there’s a good chance they’re keeping it under wraps, with 2019’s next installment following the historic moment of the first black hole.
A conference call about the findings will be streamed online on 12 May 2022 at 15:00 CEST (13:00 UTC, 9:00 EST), followed by a YouTube event with six astronomers from around the world. The press release will include “comprehensive supporting audio-visual material” (eek!).
If astronomers have managed to produce a direct image of Sgr A*’s event horizon, it will be a historic moment you don’t want to miss.
Black holes are extremely difficult to image because they are completely invisible, absorbing all electromagnetic radiation. We can only hope to see the event horizon; Essentially, the black hole’s outline, which shows that light can no longer escape the black hole’s gravitational forces.
But Sgr A* is obscured by a cloud of dust and gas, making it particularly difficult to study.
If astronomers imaged the black hole’s horizon, it should appear as a glowing donut. This black hole’s accretion disk is a ring of gas and dust that emits enormous radiation when it falls into the abyss.
ESO’s press release is promising something “unprecedented,” which is the same term they used before announcing the first direct image of a black hole in 2019.
This black hole was at the center of the galaxy M87, and its mass is 6.5 billion times greater than that of our Sun. Its event horizon has a radius of about 20 billion kilometers, and it is indeed very distant.
Experts compare taking a direct image of it to observing a 1-millimeter-sized object from a distance of 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles).
Srg A* being at the center of our own galaxy is very close to us. However, it is small for a supermassive black hole, which is only 4.3 million times larger than the Sun. It can only be detected because it is relatively closer to Earth than M87*.
So if astronomers do finally capture an image of its event horizon, it will certainly be significant.
We can’t wait to see what ESO is about to show us: Watch this space. You can find out more about the announcement here.