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Maria Gunther: This is why a black hole image is needed

“But why would you want to take a picture of a black hole?”

The question should not be unexpected, but I will get it right. I just told you, in my opinion, the great news that the Event Horizon Telescope will be holding a press conference again soon. Three years ago hit The world’s horizon telescope was shocked with the first-ever image of a black hole. And when they announced another press conference, the possibility is very high that they have now also been able to image the black hole Sagittarius A* in the middle of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

But why, my colleagues ask. Why would you want to take a picture of Sagittarius A*?

My first automatic thought was to quote British mountaineer George Mallory’s answer to the question why he wanted to climb Mount Everest:

“because it’s there” – Because it exists.

We know there is one A super-heavy black hole in the center of the galaxy. Obviously we want to see what it looks like.

Our human curiosity And the desire to explore, investigate and understand is limitless. It is he who took us to where we are today. Although the difficulties and challenges were sometimes as difficult as climbing Mount Everest.

And the challenges to be taken The image provided by the Event Horizon Telescope on Thursday It was really huge. It took eight telescopes on four continents, more than 300 scientists from 80 institutions around the world, as well as engineers and technicians, millions of gigabytes of data, several supercomputers and five years of calculations to produce it.

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So the audience at the press conference applauded for a long time when we finally got to the picture. I started crying myself. Their success has been quite significant, in every conceivable sense of the word. In addition, the image has become a necessary reminder of what humanity can actually achieve when we work together across borders.

But is it really Is it important to see the shadow of a black hole?

I put the question to Robert Cumming, an astronomer and communicator at the Onsala Space Observatory and Chalmers, and to Jonas Inander, a physics teacher at the Royal Institute of Technology, who is writing a book on black holes and who was allowed to be in one of the telescopes when the data was collected at the Event Horizon Telescope.

Their answer was about how black holes are the most extreme places in the universe, the extremes of space and time, where everything is turned upside down and the laws of physics collapse. It’s almost like a holy place, where we don’t know how something works and are challenged to think about what we really know and what we think we know. “Like looking at the Gate of Hell: the end of space and time‘, like Heino Falcke, one of those who Already in 1999 figured out how to take a photoexpressed.

Robert Cumming also emphasized the ability of rare black holes to be both simple and difficult. “Everyone from young children to Stephen Hawking faces the same challenge even from thinking of them. No other natural phenomenon operates democratically.”

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But is the image really needed?

“We don’t have to create an image,” one researcher told Jonas Inander. We can analyze the data directly and draw conclusions from it. But obviously we want a picture. Why don’t we want to see what happens at the black hole’s boundary? “

It is said that a picture says more than a thousand words. And the image of Sagittarius A*, in the constellation Sagittarius and in the middle of the Milky Way, our home in the universe, tells me at least more than any other analysis, study, and scientific findings can come out of five million gigabytes of data collected by radio telescopes.

Read more:

Image of a black hole in the middle of the Milky Way

Maria Gunther: So I can’t stop looking at the picture of the monster in the galaxy Messier 87

All you need to know about black holes