Attempting the Impossible: Taking the First Picture of a Black Hole
ALMA joins global attempt to image the event horizon of a supermassive black hole
31 March 2017
As part of an ambitious experiment involving telescopes around the world, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is about to attempt to image something never-before-seen: a black hole. For the first time, ALMA is joining the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) and the Global mm-VLBI Array (GMVA), which are Earth-sized virtual observatories made possible by an international collaboration of radio telescopes. Their main goal is to study the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way in detail. The EHT will attempt to image, for the very first time, the shadow of the black hole’s event horizon, while the GMVA will investigate the properties of the accretion and outflow around the Galactic Centre.
The impressive line up of participating telescopes stretches across the globe, from the South Pole to Europe to Hawaii — and, of course, Chile. ALMA’s 66 antennas, state-of-the-art receivers, and superb site in its southern location make it the largest and most sensitive component of both the EHT and GMVA. It will play a key role in the groundbreaking observations, which will be made with the GMVA from 1–4 April 2017, and with the EHT from 5–14 April 2017.
The outcome of these observations is eagerly awaited by the astronomy community worldwide, as their scientific potential is incredibly exciting. To help you better understand these observations, ESO and its ALMA partners have launched a short blog series to explain what the EHT and GMVA projects are and the science behind them. The series will take you on an astronomical journey, providing insight into how cutting-edge research is done, describing the risks involved, and answering questions such as: What makes black holes so interesting? How do radio telescopes see the Universe? What do we really know about the supermassive black hole lurking at the centre of the Milky Way?
The first installment explains the EHT and GMVA projects in more detail and what they may see. You can read it here.
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