Although the world was just recently intrigued to see the first ever image of a black hole, which has incidentally earned the astronomers involved a hefty $3 million “Oscar of Science” prize, another no less visual breakthrough is apparently looming on the horizon.
A group of as many as 347 scientists are currently getting ready to come up with a hit movie detailing how massive clouds of gas are indefinitely sucked into the pervasive pitch-dark void. The recorded materials on their hands come as a result of decades-long observations of dark matter and black holes, which will underlie the first video production on the subject due to be released in 2020.
“What I predict is that by the end of the next decade we will be making high quality real-time movies of black holes that reveal not just how they look, but how they act on the cosmic stage”, Shep Doeleman, the project’s director, shared with AFP. “It could be that maybe we will make the first crude movie” by 2020, he added.
Last Thursday, the entire aforementioned international team was handed a Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, grabbing $3 million as part of the so-called “Oscar of Science” for the image they released back in April.
The technical aspect of the research that enabled the team to capture the high-resolution image of the celestial body was conducted by the Event Horizon Telescope project, an international collaboration set up 7 years ago that comprises a comprehensive network of telescoped scattered around Earth. For instance, by April 2017, they had assembled eight radio telescopes across Chile, Spain, Mexico, the US (Hawaii among other locations) and the South Pole. The giant instruments made it possible to observe high frequency radio waves, thereby penetrating the gas and dust of the galaxy all the way to the black hole’s boundaries.
The body that appeared in the image was one located around 50 million light-years away in a galaxy codenamed M87.
In addition to the group’s observations of the black hole in the galaxy Messier 87 (M87), they also focused on one at the centre of our own Milky Way: Sagittarius-A*, admitting though our own back hole is far more turbulent and thus difficult to capture in images.
According to Doeleman, the project spanned a lengthy 20 years and has finally paid off:
“My wife was finally convinced that what I was doing was worth it a little bit”, the 52-year-old noted cheekily, adding that being “instruments at the edge of a black hole”, they are “coming back to report what we found”.