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The first photo of a Black hole : Like the entrance to hell

gravity monsters, cosmic eating machines, Hellmouth. In the description of Black holes even superlatives appear to be cute. Einstein had said 100 years ago, in his General theory of relativity before that, since then, physicists have been trying to understand these objects and to describe them in more detail. Just: Saw you had no one, except for a few researchers who have turned their radio telescopes to the center of our milky way and the giant galaxy M 87 at both locations are suspected supermassive Black holes.

After an extensive data analysis, the scientists were for the first time, a portrait of a Black hole, which was now presented in six parallel press conferences from Santiago de Chile to Tokyo, and via several live streams on the Internet for the first time to the world public. It looked "like the entrance to hell," said Heino Falcke of the University of Nijmegen, one of the participating German radio astronomers.

A Smiley from All

Strictly speaking, it is not a picture of the Black hole itself. This is physically impossible, because these objects have the extreme degree of mass that not even light can manage to escape the force of gravity – hence the Name. But the edge of the hole, that part, to be able to hunt out of the light and all other types of radiation just when you could see it, then you would have the hole, argues the Team of the "Event Horizon Telescope" (EHT). It is a consortium of 14 institutions with approximately 250 members in Europe, Asia, Africa and America. From the German side, the Max-Planck-Institute for radio astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn and the Goethe-University in Frankfurt am Main are involved.

The image shows the Black hole in the center of the giant galaxy M 87 in the constellation of Virgo, which is approximately 55 million light-years. The bright Ring goes back to hot matter rotating around the Black hole to millions of degrees Celsius is heated, so that it radiates intense. Due to the extreme gravity of the Black hole the beams are steered around the object, and thus reinforced, so that one side appears brighter. The black spot in the centre marks the area where no light is coming from – the shadow of the Black hole itself.

so Far, Einstein's theory of relativity holds the reality tests

As the Black hole in M 87 and its surroundings might look like, the had estimated, the researchers previously in a number of simulations. Behind the following Consideration: In the Interior of a Black hole, behind the so-called event horizon, space and time as we know it. The physics behind it is crazy. Shortly before this, however, should still apply the rules of Einstein's General relativity theory, on this basis, the simulations were expected. If the reality shows a much different picture, that would be an indication that Einstein's ailing masterpiece in this extreme area. Perhaps the key would be there, to finally the theory of relativity, is responsible for the macro-cosmos, with the quantum theory, is responsible for the micro-cosmos – together.

Eight telescopes, connected via a Computer that intercepted the radio waves of a Black hole and processed into an image.Graphics: Tsp/Klöpfel (source: MPIfR)

However, this hope has been disappointed so far, the real image is similar to the suspected. Perhaps future recordings of the EHT to show the desired deviations.

From the second protagonist, the Black hole in the center of the milky way has been successful to date, no figure. The signals that the researchers had apart, were strongly disturbed.

The edge of a Black hole is surprisingly small

This shows how difficult it is to make such recordings. While there have been a few years, fascinating images from the environment of Black holes, such as the so-called Jets: massive flares of Plasma and radiation, ranging from two opposite sides of the Black hole into space. However, these structures are very large. To the edge of a Black hole, in the vicinity of the event horizon, could not, astronomers look back in the past. Because he is very small. In the case of a stellar Black hole, i.e., one that has around ten times as much mass as our sun, the event horizon has a Radius of about 30 kilometers. No Chance to see such structures with a telescope, if the Black hole is just a little bit further away.

In a real heavyweight like the super massive Black hole in the center of the milky way, the estimate of four million solar masses has a way good, is the event horizon, although much larger - but still smaller than the orbit of the planet mercury around the sun, has a Radius of about 60 million kilometers. Because of that supermassive Black hole is located about 26.000 light-years, appears the event horizon as seen from earth is tiny. Like a grain of mustard seed to Times Square in New York, the attempts of Berlin. Even with the best telescope to.

unless combining several radio telescopes. Then it might be possible to look in the vicinity of the event horizon of a Black hole – the idea formulated in the year 2000, the astrophysicist Fulvio Melia, Eric Ago, and Heino Falcke, who conducted research at the Max-Planck-Institute for radio astronomy in Bonn (MPIfR) and now a Professor at the Radboud University Nijmegen.

super computer in Germany and the United States, calculated in the image

The method of VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) is called. It is based on radio waves from a distant source which may be a Pulsar or the environment of a Black hole – single radio telescopes on the earth at different times. Depending on which is closer. On the basis of the time difference on the one hand, the distances between the telescopes can be determined very precisely. You can on the other hand, take but also the measured signals from different telescopes and in Computer and evaluate (see chart). In this way, a virtual network of several radio telescopes. The further these are away from each other, the better the spatial resolution. One has a sufficiently sensitive radio telescopes, and are to be set apart only far enough, so the idea of the researchers, could be the surroundings of a distant Black hole.

It took several years to gain the necessary telescopes for the network "Event Horizon Telescope", or technically according to equip. In April 2017, the astrophysicist eight telescopes in Hawaii, Chile, Mexico, Spain, the USA and the South pole – have aligned for six days, on different targets and the received radio waves, recorded. Especially intensively the alleged Black hole in the center of the milky way, called Sagittarius A*, and the giant galaxy M 87 was observed. The recorded signals were evaluated on super-computers at the MPIfR in Bonn as well as at the Haystack Observatory Haystack, Massachusetts (USA) and the results are now presented to the Public. The spatial resolution of the virtual radio telescope is about a thousand times better than the Hubble space telescope. Therefore, the researchers rely on radio waves and visible light. Even if there were similar strong light telescopes, you would not receive such images. Because between the Black hole and the earth is so much matter that the light waves are absorbed and nothing arrives.

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Therefore, the EHT consortium continues to focus on radio telescopes, in order to understand Black holes and their role in the evolution of galaxies better. "In the next measurement campaigns, we will also make use of telescopes in France, Greenland and Arizona," says Falcke. The data support this, with detailed pictures. In addition, the researchers plan to bring a Swedish-European telescope (SEST), which is currently in Chile to Namibia. "That would be ideal, in order to Supplement our monitoring program to a location in Africa," says Falcke. As the site of the Gamsberg would be suitable that belong to the Max-Planck-society. With reference to the history of the two countries - Namibia, a German colony used to be – says the researcher: "The telescope not only has a scientific importance, but may also have a symbol of a partnership between the two countries. It is expressly provided, the research facilities there.“

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