Coming Soon: First-Ever Picture of a Black Hole

It will take an array of 50 telescopes to spot its shadow
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2012 9:15 AM CST
Coming Soon: First-Ever Picture of a Black Hole
This artist's image provided by the University of Warwick shows a star being distorted by its close passage to a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy.   (AP Photo/University of Warwick, Mark A. Garlick)

How do you photograph a black hole, which is normally invisible due to the fact that its gravity is so intense it pulls in even light ? You probably won't be surprised to hear that it's never been done before—and that to do it for the first time will require this: combining 50 radio telescopes around the world into one "global telescope" that will, one researcher says, essentially have "a mirror that is as big as the Earth." That telescope array will hopefully be able to capture a black hole's "shadow," the Daily Mail reports.

The Event Horizon Telescope project plans to capture images of the supermassive black hole believed to be at the center of the Milky Way. "As dust and gas swirls around the black hole before it is drawn inside, a kind of cosmic traffic jam ensues," the researcher explains. "The resulting friction turns it into plasma heated to a billion degrees or more, causing it to 'glow'—and radiate energy that we can detect here on Earth." That "glow" should allow scientists to see and photograph its outline, or shadow. Scientists plan to meet on Wednesday to discuss the endeavor. (More space telescope stories.)

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