This past Wednesday, April 12th, 2017, a team of international astronomers managed to capture the first direct image of a Sagittarius A black hole using a collective telescope technique called the Event Horizon Telescope.
The system combines the use of eight different observatories around to the world, as explained by Michael Bremer, an astronomer at the International Research Institute for Radio Astronomy.
Instead of building a telescope so big that it would probably collapse under its own weight, we combined eight observatories like the pieces of a giant mirror. This gave us a virtual telescope as big as Earth—about 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) is diameter.
Using this system, the team was able to create the first direct image ever of the area surrounding a black hole, giving it a shape and creating a very clear representation of the event horizon, the point where light can’t escape the black hole’s gravity.
Won’t be available to see until 2018
The telescopes used in the Event Horizon Telescope system are “the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the Arizona Radio Observatory Submillimeter Telescope, the IRAM 30-meter Telescope in Spain, the Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano in Mexico, the South Pole Telescope in Antarctica, and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and Submillimeter Array at Mauna Kea, Hawaii.” Together, they collected 500 TB worth of images and information over the course of a six-night period from April 5 to April 11.
All data is currently in transit to MIT, where it will be compiled to create the final image. This will not be expected for public viewing until 2018 with the data from the South Pole station unavailable until later this year during the southern hemisphere’s spring.
The Event Horizon Telescope system has been in use since 2006.