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A new image of a black hole captivates astrophysicists

In 2019, the world saw the first-ever image of a black hole. Now, researchers present a new image of the same black hole, and they are thrilled to observe the similarities between the images.

By Birgitte Svennevig, , 1/18/2024

Located 55 million light-years from Earth, a colossal black hole was first introduced to the world by an international team of researchers in 2019. It marked the first-ever image of a black hole, providing evidence that the invisible, compact, and extremely massive object around which stars orbited was indeed a black hole.

The black hole itself was invisible in the image due to its complete darkness. However, surrounding it was a luminous, ring-like structure. The image captured the light bent by the black hole, which is six billion times heavier than the Sun and exerts strong gravitational force.

The initial image was created from data collected in 2017. Now, researchers have produced a new image based on data from 2018. It closely resembles the first image, eliciting excitement from astrophysicist Roman Gold, a member of the research collaboration behind the images. He is an associate professor at the Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Pharmacy and contributed to developing the necessary software for data collection and image formation.

Contributions from Greenland Telescope 

The international team, known as The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, collaborates to capture images of black holes and their immediate surroundings, aiming to understand the physics behind them. The telescope is named after the "event horizon," which is the boundary of the black hole from which no light can escape.

The team has access to data from various telescopes worldwide, including the recent addition of the Greenland Telescope, involving institutions like SDU, DTU, KU, and AU. Links: [Event Horizon Telescope] and [Greenland Telescope].

"These are two different images taken a year apart, but the ring and its size are identical in both images. It's a stunning confirmation of our theories and predictions," he says.

Same expectation for the future

The black hole, named M87*, does not rapidly accrete material, and thus, it does not increase its mass. Researchers anticipated that, according to the theory of relativity, the hole's radius would remain the same in both the first and second images.

This expectation extends to the coming years, indeed, throughout humanity's future history. However, there is a difference in the new image: the brightest point on the ring has shifted. This, too, aligns with the researchers' expectations.

For further details, you can read this more detailed press release from the Event Horizon Telescope researchers.

Meet the researcher

Roman Gold is an associate professor at the Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Pharmacy. His research focuses on nature's most compact objects: black holes and neutron stars.

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Editing was completed: 18.01.2024