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The European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project will hold a global press conference on May 12 to unveil new discoveries about the center of the Galaxy. The main goal of this international collaboration between Event Horizon Telescope and telescopes was to capture the first image of a black hole. It took place in 2019, when astronomers released the first direct image of the event horizon of a black hole in the giant elliptical galaxy M87. Similarly, at the press conference scheduled for May 12, a historic revelation is expected about the central black hole of our galaxy, Sagittarius A *.
The EHT is a virtual telescope (a network of telescopes) with a diameter of 10,000 km. The larger a telescope, the more detail it can capture. However, it is not a unique telescope! Indeed, then he would be in danger of collapsing under his own weight … The Event Horizon telescope covers a large part of the planet thanks to the combination of many observatories that are spread all over the planet. It brings together the 30-meter IRAM (International Millimeter Radioastronomy Institute) telescope in Europe, the ALMA radio telescope in Chile (co-operated by Europe, the United States and Japan) and structures in the United States. Hawaii and Antarctica.
Despite this development of technology, the image of a “real” black hole has not yet reached us, even though the EHT teams revealed a quality image in 2019. Indeed, this type of astronomical object has the main property of being so massive that nothing can escape, not even the light. What scientists have been trying to observe for years is what exists around the black hole, the “augmentation disk”. It is matter and gas in orbit around the nucleus of the object at a very high speed, heated to extreme temperatures. Of course, they end up being swallowed by the black hole.
Given that the scientists of the project will conduct simultaneous press conferences around the world on May 12, we can conclude that their announcement will probably be groundbreaking and may concern the first image of the oversized black hole in the center of the planet. in the name of Sagittarius A *.
For EHT, the observation of Sagittarius A * and M87 * requires good meteorological conditions at the eight locations simultaneously. Sagittarius A * was the first of the two objectives of the project. The object is located 26,000 light-years from Earth, at the heart of our galaxy. Its mass is equivalent to 4.3 million times that of the Sun, which is relatively low for an oversized black hole. The second target is the black hole of the galaxy M87, which is much larger and much farther away.
Nevertheless, it was the M87 that gave the first exploitable results. Indeed, Sgr A * is covered by a cloud of dust and gas, which makes the study particularly difficult. The image of the M87 looks a bit like a blurry orange patch. In the middle is the “shadow” of the black hole, which appears as an opaque area. Therefore, we do not actually see the black hole, as its gravity prevents the escape of any potentially detectable radiation. Experts compare the capture of a direct image of the M87 * to the observation of a 1-millimeter object at a distance of 13,000 kilometers.
Note that the data generated by this observation grid is significant, so much so that to move all the data sets, it was done from an entire hard disk box. In addition, not all data was accessible at the same time. Indeed, the Antarctic telescope has been isolated for half a year. Either way, we will have to wait until May 12 to find out what the EHT has observed about Sgr A * and what the scientists have concluded.
Multiple distribution channels for a groundbreaking announcement
However, the ESO press release promises something “revolutionary”. This is the term already used to announce the first live image of a black hole in 2019. The conference will be broadcast online on the ESO website and on the ESO YouTube channel on May 12, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. CEST (3:00 pm French time). Simultaneous press conferences will be held around the world, including Washington, DC, Santiago, Chile, Mexico City, Tokyo and Taipei. Press releases will include important audiovisual material, enough to let us dream!
As far as ESO is concerned, the conference will be held at the German headquarters. The Director General of ESO will deliver the keynote address. EHT Project Manager Huib Jan van Langevelde and Anton Zensus, Founding President of the EHT Cooperation Council, will also deliver keynote speeches. A team of EHT researchers will explain the result and answer questions. The lectures will be followed by a YouTube event with several expert EHT astronomers, for the public, such as a question and answer session.