At a distance of more than 27,000 light-years, in the heart of our galaxy, lies a massive hollow that is four million times the mass of our Sun. He has never seen it.
Using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), astronomers took the first image of the Milky Way supernova, called Sagittarius A *.
Astronomers have long speculated about a hole in the center of our galaxy. Observations of stars near the nucleus have shown that they revolve around something invisible, which suggests a hollow. Today’s picture confirmation.
The results were published in a special issue today Letters from the Astrophysical Journal.
CCs are relatively small, invisible, extremely dense areas of space with a gravitational field where everything that crosses their threshold, known as the event horizon, is drawn in and never returns. This includes light, which is why they are so popular and difficult to detect if they do not interact with a nearby star.
However, in 2019, EHT, an organization of more than 200 astronomers from around the world, including Canada, has published the first historical photo of a hollow in the center of another galaxyMessier 87 (M87), which showed the shadow of the cavity illuminated by the surrounding gas.
Both M87 and the newly released image show the hot material surrounding the shadow of Sagittarius A * (pronounced Sagittarius A-star).
The image was taken using eight radio telescopes in six locations around the world: Chile, Mexico, Spain, Hawaii, Arizona and even the South Pole. Used together, they act as a giant, Earth-sized telescope that can capture much more detailed images. Data for both M87 and Sagittarius A * were collected in 2017.
More than beautiful images, the data collected may shed light not only on the formation of massive cavities, but also on the role they played in the early universe, the role they continue to play in the heart of galaxies, many of which are in the heart of those galaxies. : Confusing structures.
It is, however, the hope of astronomers and astrophysicists around the world.
Ue-Lee Pen, an astrophysicist who collaborated on the Event Horizon Telescope project, compared the new data collected with the difference in dinosaur reconstruction that we actually understand from seeing it.
“I don’t think the dinosaur analogy is that different,” said Penn, a professor at the Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. «[It’s] looks a bit like a living dinosaur in your backyard. we can not touch it yet. But it is much closer, much newer, much more alive than before. ”
Difficulties in getting these images
Creating images of two cavities presented different challenges. In the case of the M87, its hollow is one of the most widely known. It is six billion times larger than our և 1,500 times more massive than Sagittarius A *. It is located 2000 times farther than Sagittarius A *.
In the case of Sagittarius A *, while it is closer, it is along the galactic plane, which means that telescopes are needed to look through dense gas, dust, and plasma. In addition, its hole is 4.3 million times smaller than the mass of the Sun.
For Sagittarius A * it… is almost 2000 times smaller [than M87]”It means that light revolves around it 2,000 times less time,” said Avery Broderick, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo and a member of the Perimeter Institute և EHT team. “It’s about 15 minutes. So, every 15 minutes a day, he starts presenting us with a new face. ”
He likens looking through all the plasma, dust and gas to looking out of an ice-covered window.
“Radio astronomy through the galactic plane is roughly like this.
“So, solving this problem, we can play some games to eliminate the blur. But reflecting on how to deal with the ripple effect you see was one of the things we need to understand how to do effectively so that we can create an image that shows what the source looks like. »:
“Unlike anything else”
These holes have an interesting history. They were first predicted by the theoretical physicist Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity in 1915. Even if his own calculations predicted them, Einstein did not believe that nature could crush anything with the mass of a star in such a compact space. However, the astronomer-physicist Carl Schwarzschild, who fought in the trenches of the German front during World War I, was able to prove that they really exist.
So this new picture is another testament to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, Broderick said.
“The fact that the shadows are the right size, I think, proves unbelievably that Einstein’s theory of gravity, Einstein’s total relativity, still reaches 1,000,” he said. “It still gives the right answer to every question asked, which is sometimes frustrating because we are always looking for something new and different.”
Janna Lynn, who was not involved in the EHT announcement, is a well-known astronomer who has made it her life’s task to learn as much as possible about these holes.
“Stars can be different in many ways. These holes can not. “S cells are almost like a fundamental particle, just like an electron is like a fundamental particle,” said Lynn, a professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College. Columbia University, New York և Author: Cavity survival guide.
“If I have a hole that has a certain charge, an electric charge, like static electricity, a certain mass, it rotates in a certain way, it is absolutely no different from any other hole. With those three numbers, with three numbers, you can not say whether that hollow was created from antimatter, dark matter, encyclopedias, ghosts, stars, photons.
“They do not reveal anything about themselves.”
Our charm through these holes
Whether we have seen them or not, these holes have long been in the public eye. In 1979, Disney made what is now known as a bad movie This hole. And these gravitational monsters continued to appear in movies, most recently in 2014 Interstellar.
Thanks to this film, we got our first real idea of what a hollow can be. Nobel laureate astrophysicist Kip Thorne has calculated the supercomputer in an attempt to present a realistic vision of what a hollow could look like. The result was the shadow of a hollow, around which light bent due to its mass gravity, called the gravitational lens. When the image of the M87 was released, it almost completely matched it.
Both Broderick and Penn believe that a better understanding of these cavities will, in turn, help us better understand gravity as a whole.
“Why is that possible in a broader sense?” “Well, I’m kind of approaching that point philosophically,” Broderick said. “We are now living in this information age, I’m talking to you through Zoom, և my computer is connected to Wi-Fi, communicating with another computer that is spreading to you all over the world. And it all works because of Maxwell’s equations. James Clerk Maxwell wrote some descriptions of electromagnetism.
“I do not know more than Maxwell could have predicted cell phones what the gravitational age would bring. We can all fly in cars like Jetson because of that, or you can go back in space. ”
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