Watch scientists unveil the first-ever image

Pablo Tucker
April 10, 2019

For instance, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*, is about the size of the orbit of Mercury.

Simultaneous news conferences are scheduled in Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo.

The image of Sagittarius A, the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, is set to be released tomorrow.

The U.S. National Science Foundation, which will host the event in Washington D.C., said the announcement was a "groundbreaking result". As Salon has previously explained, imaging a black hole directly is impossible, given that they do not emit light; rather, astronomers aim to capture the matter that swirls around them at incredible speed due to their huge gravity, and which often radiates light.

The black hole depicted in the movie "Interstellar".

The worldwide team of over 200 globally-synched scientists, researchers and astrophysicists have not offered a peep about what will be shown on Wednesday, although they are not shy about the project and its implications.

A black hole's event horizon, one of the most violent places in the universe, is the point of no return beyond which anything gets sucked in irretrievably.

Wednesday news conference is expected to provide the first image of Sagittarius A* shadow on its accompanying disk of bright material. That theory, put forward in 1915, was meant to explain the laws of gravity and their relation to other natural forces.

It is located some 50 million light years from our planet, in the heart of a galaxy called M87.

Eight radio telescopes have been staring at two supermassive black holes since April 2017, according to AFP. After a black hole forms, it continues to grow by absorbing mass from its surroundings.

What is the Event Horizon Telescope project?

The second - called M87 - resides at the center of the neighboring Virgo A galaxy, boasting a mass 3.5 billion times that of the sun and located 54 million light-years away from Earth. Since then, telescopes in France and Greenland have been added to the network. Now the question is whether they can be mapped with enough precision to create a picture - and what that picture will reveal about the extreme environments surrounding black holes, where the more freakish aspects of Einstein's theory of general relativity are working at full force.

Beyond the historical implications of such an achievement, imaging a black hole's event horizon will also put Einstein's theory of general relativity to its ultimate test. Optical telescopes are not capable of making such an observation, in part because both potential target black holes are embedded within dense thickets of dust and stars that obscure the view.

Einstein's theory of relativity predicts that it will be circular, while other theories predict that the shape will be "prolate", meaning squashed along the vertical axis, or "oblate", or squashed along the horizontal axis.

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