No One Knows For Sure What A Black Hole Looks Like

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

We have known about black holes since the early days of Einstein's theories, but until we actually see one, there is a part of us that does not want to believe that they are real.

This actually all started with that famous equation: E = mc2. But math can only get us so far. We mean, we knew Pluto was out there since 19XX, and our best guesses told us it was a boring icy ball. Until we flew by in 2016, and really saw it. Imagine how we will feel when we see a black hole with our little jelly-filled light buckets. And this is what scientists are going to use to snap a photo of a black hole.

They invent horizon telescope. It is not just one telescope, it is a network of many all over the planet. This effectively creates a single telescope as big as Earth. The bigger the telescope, the more detail they can see, and the further away. Which we definitely need to take the image of a something like this black hole. Meet Sagittarius-A Star.

When we look up we see: moons, planets, asteroids, pulsars, nebulae, star clusters, stars bigger than whole solar systems and millions of galaxies. You know what we do not see? Black holes, because no one has ever seen a black hole.

Black holes are black deep swirling sinkholes of collapsed matter, a gravitational whirlwind that consumes everything and crushes it, a place from where even light cannot escape. What we normally see as black hole depicted on videos, posters and especially SF movies is not what a real black hole looks like. We actually do not know, because no one has seen one. What we are presented as mental image is nothing but an artist’s perception of it based on the data and knowledge scientists have produced so far.

Crucial to this image is the light that gives shape to the black hole, the thing we should see around it is called “the event horizon”. Think about TV-shows and movies, they all have images of black holes but no one has actually photographed one. So, how close are we to taking a picture of a black hole?

Taking a picture of a black hole is expensive, difficult and takes a lot of smart peoples’ time. You probably never thought about what a black hole looks like because you thought images in pop culture were true to form. But they are not. So, why are scientists so desperate to see one? Why does it matter? Because it is science, and also, black holes are awesome and right now artists and filmmakers build conceptions based on what scientists tell them is important. But we do not know if these are right, they are based on math and not on reality.

There is an object in the middle of the galaxy M87 scientists are very interested about, also known as Virgo A. This galaxy is 50 million of light years away. In April 2017 scientists pointed their telescopes towards the black holes in Sagittarius-A Star and M87 for five nights. We are now processing the collected interferometry data and images are being filtered from all the noise. The signals from the black hole are unfortunately, very weak, and they are hoping to collect some more to get the full picture.

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