So far scientists and artists have only imagined how a black hole looks like. The images of black holes, that have fueled our imagination and literature alike, have been sketches of what we imagine the mythical monster to look like. But for the first time in the history of mankind, scientists have captured the gargantuan in all its might.
To perform this seemingly impossible task, a team of scientists from the International Research Institute for Radio Astronomy (IRAM) trained a network of telescopes stretching from Hawaii in the west to Antartica in the south to Spain in the north, to run for five nights straight in an attempt to capture a giant star-eating monster located in the heart of our Milky Way galaxy.
Instead of building a giant telescope that would have probably collapsed under its own weight, the scientists combined the power (and observational powers) of eight observatories across the Earth to work together as a massive mirror that would capture the skies (literally!) at the same time.
Michael Bremer, who is an astronomer at IRAM and a project manager for the Event Horizon Telescope, told AFP that this technique helped them piece together a virtual telescope that was as big as the Earth itself and was nearly 10,000 kilometres in diameter (that’s amazing, isn’t it?!).
The monster that they were trying to capture collectively is a blackhole that is located in the centre of Milky Way in the constellation Sagittarius constellation, some 26,000 light years from our planet. To put into perspective, this monster weighs as much as four million Suns (yeah, it’s probably not that friendly either!).
However, there’s a catch. It will take the supercomputers at the MIT Haystack Observatory in Massachusetts several months to process the final image due to the amount of data collected by each observatory. Each observatory has collected roughly 500 TB of data which will be flown to the MIT using jetliners.
For those of you who don’t know, a black hole is a region in the space-time that has such a strong gravitational pull that even light can’t escape from it (forget Usain Bolt, just kidding).
Till the supercomputers piece together the first ever image of the star eating monster, all we can do is wait.