The European Southern Observatory has revealed that on April 10 there will be a huge announcement. Yes, we know how that sounds – but as far as we can tell, it appears the world is about to finally see the first ever photo of a black hole‘s event horizon.
Of course, we won’t know for sure until the press event itself, which we will cover live on our site. But here’s a massive clue: according to the advance statement, the researchers will be discussing the “first result from the Event Horizon Telescope.”
For years, the Event Horizon Telescope has been staring into the heart of the Milky Way, trying to obtain a photo of the location of Sagittarius A*, our galaxy’s central supermassive black hole; and at a galaxy called Messier 87, 50 million light-years away, trying to image its black hole too.
It’s no mean feat: black holes themselves are, literally, invisible – they absorb all electromagnetic radiation, which means none of our telescopes – radio, X-ray, optical, gamma-ray – can detect them.
That’s why we’ve never actually seen one.
But seeing the event horizon – the point outside a black hole at which light can no longer achieve escape velocity – is theoretically possible, although not easy. Spacetime around a black hole is weird; in addition, Sgr A* is shrouded in a thick cloud of dust and gas.
Don’t let that stop dedicated scientists, though. Telescopes around the world turned their combined might to the task, generating so much data that the only way to transport it all was on hard disks sent on planes. And then researchers had to sort through and analyse those data.
Now something is finally ready. On 10 April 2019, at 15:00 CEST (13:00 UTC, 09:00 EST) the European Commission, European Research Council, and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project will present results they are describing as “groundbreaking”.
As they note, “due to the importance of this result, we encourage satellite events in the different ESO Member States and beyond.”
AAAAAH. WE CAN HARDLY WAIT.
The event is going to be streamed on YouTube, and there’s a link here. Pop it in your bookmarks. We’re also going to be live-blogging tonight, so tune in if you want to share our excitement.
This is going to be historical.
This article was first published on 1 April 2019.