Astronomers unveiled the first photo of a black hole, one of the star-devouring monsters scattered throughout the Universe and obscured by impenetrable shields of gravity. The image of a dark core encircled by a flame-orange halo of white-hot gas and plasma looks like any number of artists’ renderings over the last 30 years.
A black hole and its shadow have been captured in an image for the first time, a historic feat by an international network of radio telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). EHT is an international collaboration whose support in the U.S. includes the National Science Foundation.
What Is Black Hole?A black hole is an extremely dense object from which no light can escape. Anything that comes within a black hole’s “event horizon,” its point of no return, will be consumed, never to re-emerge, because of the black hole’s unimaginably strong gravity. By its very nature, a black hole cannot be seen, but the hot disk of material that encircles it shines bright. Against a bright backdrop, such as a disk, a black hole appears to cast a shadow.
The Historic Image
The stunning new image shows the shadow of the supermassive black hole in the centre of Messier 87 (M87), an elliptical galaxy some 55 million light-years from Earth. This black hole is 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun. Catching its shadow involved eight ground-based radio telescopes around the globe, operating together as if they were one telescope the size of our entire planet. While NASA observations did not directly trace out the historic image, astronomers used data from NASA’s Chandra and NuSTAR satellites to measure the X-ray brightness of M87’s jet.
Each of the 8 telescopes generated 350 terabytes of data per day and was synced using atomic clocks, accurate to within one second every 100 million years. The over $50-million project involved more than 200 scientists.
Role of Chandra X-ray Observatory:
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is a telescope specially designed to detect X-ray emission from very hot regions of the Universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes. Because X-rays are absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere, Chandra must orbit above it, up to an altitude of 139,000 km (86,500 mi) in space. NASA observations did not directly trace out the historic image, astronomers used data from NASA’s Chandra and NuSTAR satellites to measure the X-ray brightness of M87’s jet. Since its launch on July 23, 1999, the Chandra X-ray Observatory has been NASA’s flagship mission for X-ray astronomy.The Man Behind Chandra X-Ray: Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
NASA’s premier X-ray observatory was named the Chandra X-ray Observatory in honor of the late Indian-American Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Known to the world as Chandra, he was widely regarded as one of the foremost astrophysicists of the 20th century.
Chandra immigrated in 1937 from India to the United States, where he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago, a position he remained at until his death. He and his wife became American citizens in 1953. He was one of the first scientists to combine the disciplines of physics and astronomy. Early in his career, he demonstrated that there is an upper limit — now called the Chandrasekhar limit — to the mass of a white dwarf star. A white dwarf is the last stage in the evolution of a star such as the Sun. When the nuclear energy source in the center of a star such as the Sun is exhausted, it collapses to form a white dwarf. This discovery is basic to much of modern astrophysics, since it shows that stars much more massive than the Sun must either explode or form black holes.In 1983, Chandra was awarded the Nobel prize for his theoretical studies of the physical processes important to the structure and evolution of stars. On August 21, 1995, he passed away in Chicago.
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