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There is optimism that observations to be conducted during 5-14 April could finally deliver the long-sought prize. In the sights of the so-called "Event Horizon Telescope" will be the monster black hole at the centre of our galaxy. Although never seen directly, this object, catalogued as Sagittarius A*, has been determined to exist from the way it influences the orbits of nearby stars. These race around a point in space at many thousands of km per second, suggesting the hole likely has a mass of about four million times that of the Sun. But as colossal as that sounds, the "edge" of the black hole - the horizon inside which an immense gravity field traps all light - may be no more than 20 million km or so across.
The scientists certainly have an expectation of what they ought to see, if successful. Simulations rooted in Einstein's equations predict a bright ring of light fringing a dark feature. The light would be the emission coming from gas and dust accelerated to high speed and torn apart just before disappearing into the hole. The dark feature would be the shadow the hole casts on this maelstrom.
"Now, it could be that we will see something different," Doeleman said. "As I've said before, it's never a good idea to bet against Einstein, but if we did see something that was very different from what we expect we would have to reassess the theory of gravity. "I don't expect that is going to happen, but anything could happen and that's the beauty of it."
Astronomers call it Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* (pronounced “sadge A star”) for short, because it’s located (from our point of view) in the Sagittarius constellation. Discovering the Milky Way’s black hole has helped cement the idea that the center of nearly every large galaxy harbors a supermassive black hole. But despite mounting evidence for black holes, we still haven’t seen one directly.
Brown named the discovery Sagittarius A*—in atomic physics, the asterisk is used to refer to an atom in its “excited state,” and nothing was as exciting to Balick and Brown as discovering this black hole.
[T]he most ambitious project focused on the galactic center is the Event Horizon Telescope, an enormous interferometer made from a dozen observatories stretching from Hawaii to the South Pole. The goal, when it comes online this spring, is to capture an image of Sgr A* with enough resolution to see the event horizon itself.
Researchers from across the globe have officially begun the process of imaging one of the most camera shy subjects in the galaxy: a black hole.
Or, to be more specific, the edge of a black hole. The project, known as Event Horizons Telescope, started April 5 and will continue until Friday, April 14, with a team of scientists stationed in six observatories across the planet all training their telescopes on Sagittarius A*, our Milky Way’s own local (and massive) black hole.
Stephen Hawking Passes Away
March 15, 2018
On March 14th, the world lost Stephen Hawking, a luminary who inspired many of the scientists working on the Event Horizon Telescope project. Stephen’s work on black holes helped bring them center stage in our efforts to understand the universe. He was aware of the EHT’s goal of imaging a black hole event horizon, having visited the Black Hole Initiative (BHI) at Harvard in April 2016.
The EHT team has been analyzing data collected during our most recent observing campaign, and had hoped to be able to share the results with Stephen. Some EHT members connected our efforts to the Stephen's seminal work on black holes in the article entitled "Seeing a Black Hole Through Stephen Hawking's Eyes", published in The Atlanic.
We send our sincere condolences to his family, and as we move forward with our work, we are mindful of, and deeply thankful for, his legacy of scholarship and spirit of adventure.