JUN 12, 2016 11:14 AM PDT

New Algorithm May Produce a Legit Image of a Black Hole

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

It has long been a goal of astronomers too realize the achievement of taking an actual photograph of a black hole, but they’re so small compared to their distance from Earth that they are particularly difficult to observe.
 
Using the radio telescope observation technology we have in place today, it’s nearly impossible to grab a picture of a black hole. We simply don’t have a telescope big enough. On the other hand, there may still be hope by tricking the system to work to our advantage by using a technique known as interferometry to gather imagery at different focal points.

Image Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The details are published in a paper drafted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists.
 
“A black hole is very, very far away and very compact,” Katie Bouman, an MIT graduate student and lead developer behind the new algorithm said.
 
“[Taking a picture of the black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy is] equivalent to taking an image of a grapefruit on the moon, but with a radio telescope. To image something this small means that we would need a telescope with a 10,000-kilometer diameter, which is not practical, because the diameter of the Earth is not even 13,000 kilometers.”
 
With a new potentially groundbreaking algorithm, this goal may be closer than ever to becoming reality.
 
Using a collaboration of different radio telescopes scattered throughout the Earth’s surface, astronomers have created something known as the Event Horizon Telescope. This process essentially takes all of those radio telescopes and combines their surface area via a virtual network to create one giant radio telescope rather than keeping them divided.
 
Since one of the world’s largest radio telescopes only has a dish size of around 1,000 feet in diameter, we don’t get a very high resolution view of whatever it is that we’re looking at with that single radio telescope, especially with the massive distance between Earth and whatever it is we’re viewing (in this case, a black hole, which is tiny compared to the field of view we’re looking at).
 
In fact, as noted by MIT, a clearer image could be produced with a backyard telescope than a single radio telescope of that size. Nevertheless, we use radio telescopes because radio waves are able to penetrate dust and other things that get in the way of a clear picture, whereas optics cannot.
 
By combining the images from multiple radio telescopes around the world with a virtual network and creating an optical array of radio telescopes that basically merge their dish sizes together to create one gigantic radio telescope, we may be able to produce a much clearer image with a higher resolution than has ever been achieved.
 
There are as many as 6 radio telescopes involved in the current array, but there will almost definitely be more radio telescopes getting integrated into the project at a later date. Researchers are hopeful to use this technology to photograph a black hole within a decade from now.

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Event Horizon Telescope

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 04, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 04, 2019
What You Need to Know About NASA's Upcoming WFIRST Space Telescope
There are several space telescopes observing the cosmos at the very time of this writing, and there are plans to launch even more of them in the near futur...
JAN 14, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 14, 2020
How Much Do You Know About Jupiter?
Jupiter, recognized by most as the largest known planet in our solar system, is a particularly interesting place. So interesting, in fact, that NASA sent a...
JAN 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 20, 2020
SpaceX Demos Crew Dragon Launch Escape for NASA
SpaceX is one of two major players in NASA’s Commercial Crew program, an attempt to use third-party space companies to bring crewed space launches ba...
JAN 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 26, 2020
How Much Do You Know About the Planet Mercury?
Mercury is the solar system’s smallest planet, and it’s also the one residing closest to the Sun. But while Mercury is commonly shrugged off as...
FEB 02, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 02, 2020
NASA Officially Retires the Spitzer Space Telescope
NASA is always sending spacecraft into space to explore the universe around us; be it the close-proximity stellar neighborhood of our own solar system or o...
FEB 09, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 09, 2020
NASA's Christina Koch Returns From Space After Shattering Records
NASA astronaut Christina Koch set a new record at the end of 2019 when she spent more consecutive days in space than any other female astronaut before her....
Loading Comments...