Seeing is believing: Four lessons of the new black hole image

Seeing is believing: 4 lessons of the new black hole image
This April 4, 2019, photo, provided by Maunakea Observatories shows the Submillimeter Array, part of the Event Horizon Telescope network on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Scientists on Wednesday, April 10, revealed the first image ever made of a black hole using these telescopes. (Maunakea Observatories via AP)

Black holes are cosmic prisons, where nothing escapes, not light or even data. But lots did come out of Wednesday's first image of the shadowy edge of a supermassive black hole. Here are four things we learned:

SEEING IS BELIEVING

Scientists have known for decades that black holes exist, but only indirectly. Three years ago, they essentially heard the sound of two smaller black holes crashing together to form a gravitational wave. The image revealed Wednesday showed the edges of the black hole—called the "event horizon"—for the first time.

There actually were a few academic holdouts who denied black holes existed, but now they can't, said Boston University astronomer Alan Marscher, who was on one of four imaging teams.

The new image shows a glowing ring that was obviously a black hole and its surroundings, said Harvard's Sheperd Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope team.

"We saw something so true," Doeleman said. "We saw something that really had a ring to it if you can use that phrase."

He said the team "uncovered part of the universe that was off-limits to us."

EINSTEIN IS RIGHT AGAIN

Each major astrophysics discovery of the last few decades tends to confirm Albert Einstein's . It's a comprehensive explanation of gravity that the former patent clerk thought of in 1915 before computers and with much weaker telescopes.

On Wednesday, Einstein's predictions about the shape and glow of a big black hole proved right, and astronomer after astronomer paid homage to the master.

"Today general relativity passed another crucial test," said University of Waterloo astronomer Avery Broderick, a co-discoverer. "The Einstein equations are beautiful. So often in my experience, nature wants to be beautiful".''

It sounds strange to keep saying Einstein is right, but every time his general relativity theory is confirmed, "we kill a cloud of alternative theories" and gain better understanding how to create an even more comprehensive theory of physics, said Ethan Vishniac of Johns Hopkins University. He wasn't part of the discovery team.

Seeing is believing: 4 lessons of the new black hole image
This image released Wednesday, April 10, 2019, by Event Horizon Telescope shows a black hole. Scientists revealed the first image ever made of a black hole after assembling data gathered by a network of radio telescopes around the world. (Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration/Maunakea Observatories via AP)

GRAVITY IS POWERFUL

The black hole that scientists took a picture of is in the center of a galaxy called M87 and it is far bigger than anything in the Milky Way. Its mass—the chief measurement of a black hole—is 6.5 billion times as much as our sun's. The stretches about the breadth of our solar system.

"M87's huge black hole mass makes it really a monster even by supermassive black hole standards," said Sera Markoff, a discovery team member at the University of Amsterdam.

Some are inactive, but not this one, she said. And that means it converts nearby gas and matter into energy with 100 times more efficiency than the nuclear fusion that powers the stars.

Black holes like these "temporarily become the most powerful engines in the universe," Markoff said.

WORKING TOGETHER WORKS

The project succeeded because of international cooperation among 20 countries and about 200 scientists at a cost of $50 million to $60 million, according to the National Science Foundation.

To get an image of a faraway black hole, scientists had to get eight radio telescopes on several continents, including Antarctica, to look at the same place at the same time. In getting the instruments connected, they essentially created one Earth-size connected telescope.

The amount of data generated was so massive that it could not be transmitted over the internet, so it was flown to data centers by jet.

The data collected was equivalent to a lifetime collection of selfies from 40,000 people, said discovery team member Daniel Marrone of the University of Arizona.

And just to start to take pictures the weather had to be good at all eight telescopes on the same days in April 2017. The scientists had only 10 days to look and got four perfect weather days, three of them at the start.

It then took more than a year for that data to be processed into the first glimpse of images that scientists saw in the summer of 2018.

Those images were so good that scientists at first worried that it was just too good to be true, Boston University's Marscher said.


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Apr 10, 2019
In search of black holes and dark matter astrophysicists are relying on indirect observations. It would seem that the measurement of the event horizon of a black hole directly would be a direct evidence. However, by the nature of a horizon, any real measurement of the event horizon will be indirect. The Event Horizon Telescope will get picture of the silhouette of the Sgr A* which is due to optical effects of spacetime outside of the event horizon. The result will be determined by the simple quality of the resulting image that does not depend on the properties of the spacetime within the image. So, it will be also indirect and an existence of BH is a hypothesis.
https://www.acade...ilky_Way

Apr 10, 2019
Amusingly, despite all the hype, all that is imaged is a plasmoid. Nary an infinite gravity monster to be seen.

Apr 10, 2019
It's light originating from the severely-brightness-challenged object's surroundings and it got redirected into showing a ring profile upon leaving the vicinity of said object. That's what I think I see, anyway. Everything bright has something to do with plasma, that seems clear enough. It's just ultra-low frequency radio light.

Apr 10, 2019
"ultra-low frequency radio"

Sorry, my mistake, it's near the division between IR above and microwave below.


Apr 10, 2019
There's a lesson missed: we didn't get multi-spectral views of the M87* black hole. And we haven't been watching enough to look at density fluctuations of the accretion disk.

Apr 10, 2019
"Scientists have known for decades that black holes exist.."

No they have not, they have believed they exist, and there still is and never will be any proof that these objects are impossibly dense matter. Picking an image from one of the many possible interpretations of the data and saying it looks like what we believe it should look like is not science, it is Pseudoscience at its very worst.

Apr 11, 2019
Seems like it wouldn't be to difficult to see the effect of gravity tilting the ring toward facing any observer, no matter what the observer's location is, as a sort of indication that matter is retro-reflective for gravity. An individual atom's capacity for retro-reflectivity of gravity seems very feasible to me, GR works so well on the concept that no flow is needed for a static gravity field that it almost seems a natural to try the closest thing, namely retro-reflection, with quantized gravity. With minor elaborations one can go from retro-reflection to Hebbian learning to simple "consciousness-like" behaviors in hydrogen nuclei to natural quantum soft error correction and counter-entropic aspects of gravity.

I also see a need in gravity, beyond that, to radically decouple carrier ultra-long wavelength scale from carrier size scale as a particle with ultra-small particle cross-section, a pairing that seemingly runs counter to Heisenberg's constraints for electromagnetic energy.

Apr 11, 2019
Appreciating quantum gravity carriers as operating both counter and complementarily to rules of electromagnetic carriers as set forth by Maxwell and Heisenberg seemed to be worth considering. Photons are frozen in their inertial frame, so think about letting gravity carriers move in their inertial frames and it turns out to leads to a static spin-2 wave. Quantum equations have been time-reversible, so maybe ask yourself what is the closest realistic thing to that besides retro-reflecting. Other simple quantum gravity equations have been time-independent and what is closer to that than a static wave canonical gravity carrier with practically infinitesimal energy.

An ultra-long static wavelength seemed to be needed to explain galaxies as ubiquitous in the same way as hydrogen nuclei are. This links up as proton width times 10^36 which is F(E)/F(G) between protons producing the same scale as common galaxies.

Apr 11, 2019
Seems like it was not very long after my HS physics teacher covered the inverse square rule of Newton's gravity, in the 1970's, that I thought about putting a force-reversing wave in it. I knew about GR around that time but had my own ideas. I started to read about dark matter in the 1980's and got the impression a static wave was the answer, but it never took off in my mind mathematically until around 2000. It became urgent to me, and that is hard to explain except as channeled anger. Something almost random around that time drew me to seeing force ratios as useful for rationalizing cosmological wave-scale spatial spectra. This seems to match with long range views of DM suggesting sheets of basically mono-spectral (at that resolution) static wave density.

Apr 11, 2019
...and there still is and never will be any proof that these objects are impossibly dense matter.
Right on two points: science goes by confidence-levels, not by proof; and BH's are not impossibly dense matter.

Picking an image from one of the many possible interpretations of the data and saying it looks like what we believe it should look like is not science, it is Pseudoscience at its very worst.
And like you, I'm glad it didn't happen in this instance.

Apr 11, 2019
Amusingly, despite all the hype, all that is imaged is a plasmoid. Nary an infinite gravity monster to be seen.


Wrong. Stop lying.

Apr 11, 2019
"Scientists have known for decades that black holes exist.."

No they have not, they have believed they exist, and there still is and never will be any proof that these objects are impossibly dense matter. Picking an image from one of the many possible interpretations of the data and saying it looks like what we believe it should look like is not science, it is Pseudoscience at its very worst.


Oh dear, the poor old cranks are really suffering, aren't they! They are all drowning in that Egyptian river. Lol.
Please point us to an explanation of the stellar orbits around Sgr A* that doesn't involve a BH. And ditto for the gravitational redshift of one of those stars at pericentre. You can't, because such things do not exist within the scientific literature.

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