How the Event Horizon Telescope is shining light on black holes

The EHT is a sum of parts, integrating data from eight extensive telescope facilities, scattered across the globe, all pointing towards the target galaxy. Photo: Eunice Elizabeth Dhivya

Early this July, a team of radio astronomers located a supermassive black hole, 55 million times as massive as the sun, in a neighbouring galaxy Centaurus A, 165000 light years away. (One light year is the distance covered travelling at a speed of light, that is, 300000 km per sec.) The findings published in the journal Nature Astronomy show the exact location of the black hole in the heart of the galaxy.

The findings reveal the birth of a gigantic radiation jet emanating from the black hole’s core — a signature phenomenon occurring around them. However, the laws of physics defining these events are still shrouded in mystery, and astronomers are actively researching to understand them. The present study has captured images of the galaxy’s core in unprecedented detail with the help of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT).

When stars die, their matter shrinks, packing into a tiny space compared to the original size. As mass shrinks, the gravity becomes dense, to a point where the mass collapses within itself, forming a black hole. Neighbouring stars, gases, dust and space objects spiral around the gravity-dense hole at the speed of light; those closer to the centre get sucked into the abyss.

Nothing entering a black hole can escape it – not even light; however, the process releases an enormous amount of energy. Surprisingly, some matter at the edge of the black hole gains the velocity to ‘escape’ the gravitational pull and bursts out as intense radiation, spewing charged matter far out into the galaxy.

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