We're About To Get Our First Ever Picture Of A Black Hole
Up until now, every image we have seen of a black hole has been an illustration, but that is about to change.
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) partnership announced a high-quality photo of a black hole will be released on Wednesday -- the first in history.
The project was established in 2012 by dozens of institutions around the world, with the goal of developing a way of capturing an elusive black hole.
"Such observations could lead to images of strong gravity effects that are expected near a black hole, and to the direct detection of dynamics near the black hole as matter orbits at near light speeds," the EHT said.
The telescope uses radio dishes around the world to create an Earth-sized interferometer, which is basically an instrument in which the interference of two beams of light is employed to make precise measurements.
The European Southern Observatory, one of the contributors, said the technique involves combining the data from the telescopes around the world to create a "virtual giant telescope".
"In [very-long-baseline interferometry], each antenna is equipped with an extremely precise atomic clock to record the time at which radio signals from the target object were received," it said.
"The gathered data are synthesised using the times as a reference, so that the arrival time of the radio waves to each antenna can be accurately adjusted."
On April 10, it is expected a photo of the Milky Way's supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* will be shown to the world.
Sagittarius A* is our closest black hole, but 'closest' is a relative term. It's about 26,000 light years away, and looks like a tiny dot from Earth, despite having a mass approximately four times that of the sun.
A second black hole called M87 in the neighbouring Virgo A galaxy is also being targeted.
Six media events around the world will be held simultaneously in Washington, D.C, Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo.
The U.S. National Science Foundation, which will host the event in Washington D.C., said the announcement was a "groundbreaking result".
The picture will be available is Australian Eastern Standard Time at 11pm on Wednesday.