19 January 2012

Black hole photo planned

Today's headline at Space.com:

New Telescope to Take First-Ever Black Hole Photo

Doeleman and his team want to create a network of up to 50 radio telescopes around the world, which will work in concert to get the job done. "In essence, we are making a virtual telescope with a mirror that is as big as the Earth," Doeleman said. "Each radio telescope we use can be thought of as a small silvered portion of a large mirror. With enough such silvered spots, one can start to make an image."..

"If we find the black hole’s shadow to be oblate instead of circular, it means Einstein’s theory of general relativity must be flawed," Psaltis said. "But even if we find no deviation from general relativity, all these processes will help us understand the fundamental aspects of the theory much better."
I have a hard time understanding the relevance of astrophysics to anything in real life (but I'm not mocking them).  And btw, I posted a closer view yesterday (next post down).


  1. Science isn't about applicability, because that presupposes the purpose of scientific inquiry. Gathering data and testing theories is an end unto itself that has just happened to yield endless riches for the human species.

    More data gathered equals more information by which to parse the universe for its mysteries.

    I know astrophysics in particular seems more abstracted than the more, err, grounded sciences, but it is a worthy pursuit for us to understand the universe we are in, and the study of black holes has earthly consequences for understanding the physical frameworks of our world.

  2. Everyone knows you shouldn't do that, it will steal the camera's soul.

  3. "I have a hard time understanding the relevance of astrophysics to anything in real life."

    How about prime numbers or Rembrandt or Bach?

  4. I work on this, and it is indeed exciting science. As to relevance: it's hard to anticipate what the technology might one day be used for, but there are at least two, perhaps surprising, practical applications of related science:

    - Earthquakes: VLBI techniques (which are being extended to high frequency for this experiment) are also used for geodesy -- that is, for measuring relative positions of widely separated ground stations to millimeter accuracy. This can be used to track motion of tectonic plates.

    - GPS: general relativity (which is being tested with this experiment) is need to make GPS work. Without relativistic corrections positional errors would accumulate at the rate of kilometers/day.

  5. Got me!
    Yes I clicked on it.
    Four bisous from frenchfarmer in France.

  6. Surely this is a joke? I thought black holes were supposed to have a gravitational field so strong that they even suck light in. If that is so, then they will suck in light (as well as the stars that make it) from all directions, and not just from every direction except for the one with the camera! So how would it be possible to photograph the hole itself? Perhaps I misunderstand?

    Thanks for the huge effort you put into creating this blog, by the way; only recently discovered it.

    1. Not a joke at all. They aim to capture a "shadow" of a black hole. This so called shadow is an outline of a black hole. It is created by dust and gas that swirls around the black hole before it is sucked in. The matter compresses, turns into plasma and then glows. hey - ho!

  7. Not a joke. And light apparently is irrelevant - they will be using radio telescopes to image the hole. See the link.

  8. No! Radio IS light, just at a different frequency than the ones our eyes can see. There's nothing magic about that, it gets sucked in, too.

    The real explanation is that they won't be seeing into the black hole itself, but imaging its event horizon, the boundary where things are on the verge of being sucked in.

    It's just like looking at an ordinary hole. The middle is full of nothing; what you're actually seeing is the stuff around the edge.

  9. @Anon 12:41 - "It's just like looking at an ordinary hole. The middle is full of nothing; what you're actually seeing is the stuff around the edge."

    In the case of a supermassive object like a black hole, you're not looking at the edge - you're looking at what's on the other side as a result of gravitational lensing.


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