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The European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project will hold a world press conference on May 12 to reveal new discoveries about the Milky Way center. The main objective of this international collaboration of radio telescopes and observatories of the Event Horizon Telescope was to capture the first image of a black hole. It’s been done since 2019, when astronomers released the first direct image of the event horizon of a black hole in the giant elliptical galaxy M87. Similarly, at the press conference scheduled for May 12, a historic revelation about the central black hole in our galaxy, Sagittarius A *, is expected.
The EHT is a virtual telescope (a network of telescopes) with a diameter of 10,000 km. The larger a telescope, the more details it can capture. However, it is not a single telescope! In fact, then it would risk collapsing by its own weight … The Event Horizon Telescope covers a large part of the globe thanks to the combination of several observatories scattered around the planet. It brings together the 30-meter telescope of the IRAM (International Millimeter Radioastronomy Institute) in Europe, the ALMA radio telescope in Chile (co-managed by Europe, the United States and Japan) as well as structures in the United States. Hawaii and Antarctica.
Despite this deployment of technology, the photo of a “real” black hole has not yet reached us, although the EHT teams released a quality image in 2019. Indeed, this type of object astronomical properties have the main property of being as massive as anything. it can escape, not even light. What scientists have been trying to observe for years is what is around the black hole, the “accretion disk.” It is matter and gas that orbit around the core of the object at a very high speed, heated to extreme temperatures. Of course, they end up being devoured by the black hole.
Given that scientists in the project are holding simultaneous press conferences around the world on May 12, we can infer that their announcement is likely to be innovative and could affect the first image of the supermassive black hole in the center of the planet. called Sagittarius A *.
For EHT, the observation of Sagittarius A * and M87 * requires good weather conditions at all eight sites simultaneously. Sagittarius A * was the first of two project goals. The object is 26,000 light-years from Earth, at the heart of our galaxy. Its mass is 4.3 million times that of the Sun, which is relatively low for a supermassive black hole. The second target is the black hole in the galaxy M87, which is much larger and much farther away.
Despite this, it was M87 that provided the first exploitable results. In fact, Sgr A * is obscured by a cloud of dust and gas, which makes study especially difficult. The M87 image looks a bit like a blurry orange patch. In the middle is the “shadow” of the black hole, which appears as an opaque area. Therefore, we do not actually see the black hole, as its gravity prevents any potentially detectable radiation from escaping. Experts compare making a direct image of M87 * with observing an object 1 millimeter in size at a distance of 13,000 kilometers.
Note that the data produced by this observation network is considerable, so much so that to move all the data sets, it was done per whole hard disk box. In addition, not all data was accessible simultaneously. In fact, the Antarctic telescope is isolated halfway through the year. In any case, we will have to wait until May 12 to find out what the EHT has observed regarding Sgr A * and what the scientists have concluded.
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However, the ESO press release promises something “revolutionary”. This is the term that was first used to announce the first direct image of a black hole in 2019. The conference will be broadcast online on the ESO website and on the ESO YouTube channel on December 12. May 2022 at 15:00 CEST (3:00 pm French time). Simultaneous press conferences will be held around the world, including Washington DC, Santiago de Chile, Mexico City, Tokyo and Taipei. Press releases will include important audiovisual material, enough to make us dream!
As for ESO, the conference will be held at the German headquarters. The Director General of ESO will give the keynote address. Huib Jan van Langevelde, director of the EHT project, and Anton Zensus, founding president of the EHT Collaboration Council, will also give keynote speeches. A panel of EHT researchers will explain the result and answer questions. The lectures will be followed by a YouTube event with various astronomers who are experts in EHT, for the public, as a question and answer session.