Now that the Event Horizon Telescope has released a photo of the Black Hole on the Milky Way, the team is focusing on making films about the two black holes shot and finding other distant black holes large enough to explore.


May 12, 2022

The image of the black hole of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A *, with the large millimeter / submillimeter massif Atacama (ALMA) in the foreground

ESO / Jos? Francisco Salgado (, EHT Collaboration

On May 12, the Event Horizon (EHT) telescope unveiled the first close-up of a black hole in the center of the Milky Way. After taking pictures of both this black hole, called Sagittarius A * or Sgr A *, and the black hole in the center of the galaxy M87, known as M87 *, it’s time for the collaboration to move on to new scientific pursuits. So what’s next?

First, researchers will need to study the data they have already collected. Images of Sgr A * and M87 * were collected from data collected in 2017, but there have been two more observation periods since then with additional telescopes added to the original network of eight collaborative telescopes.

“The data exists. We took data in 2018 with one additional telescope, in 2022 with 3 additional telescopes and we are working very, very hard to provide them to you… as soon as possible, but I can’t make any promises about when, “said the researcher. of EHT Leah Medeiros at the Institute of Advanced Research in New Jersey during a May 12 press conference. It will probably take years before the results of this analysis are published, she said.

The data are expected to clarify the structure of the material around Sgr A *, especially the three bright “knots” of light shown in the new image. “These nodes tend to align with the directions in which we have more telescopes,” said an EHT researcher. Ferial Ozel at the University of Arizona during the press conference. “While it’s natural in theory to expect these brighter spots, we still don’t trust them so much in our data.”

While the images are consistent with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity so far, a deeper analysis will give us another test of how this theory can disintegrate in the extreme areas around black holes. “This should give us a hint, at some point, perhaps of something other than how we formulate gravity with the general theory of relativity at the moment,” Ozel said. “We still don’t see a crack in this theory.”

Finally, another major goal of working with EHT is to make videos of Sgr A * and M87 * as the material around them moves and changes over time. “We tried to use the data we have to try to recover a film,” said an EHT researcher. Katie Booman at the California Institute of Technology. Although they have some data they could use, there are not enough of them at the moment to make films about black holes, she said.

Additional telescopes recently added to the array should help. They will receive data with multiple wavelengths, which will increase the resolution of the images and can produce color images – the images that have been released so far, color has been added to show the brightness.

So far, these two black holes are the only ones we know can be imaged by EHTs with high enough resolution to see their silhouettes against the hot plasma light around them – Sgr A * due to its proximity to Earth and M87 * because of its colossal size. Current work is trying to identify other supermassive black holes that researchers could observe and compare with the two we’ve seen so far. According to statistical studies, there should be other black holes that are large enough and not too far away for EHT to be resolved, but researchers have not yet identified them.

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