New technology makes images of black holes sharper

2022 When scientists unveiled mankind’s first historic image of a black hole in 2019 – representing a dark core encircled by a fiery aura of matter falling towards it – they believed still richer images and insights were waiting to be extracted from the data.

Simulations predict that, obscured by that bright orange glow.

Now a team of researchers has combined theoretical predictions and sophisticated imaging algorithms to “remaster” the original imagery of the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy M87*, first captured by the Celebration Horizon Telescope (EHT) in 2019. Their findings, published today in The Astrophysical Journal, are in line with theoretical predictions and offer new ways to explore these mysterious objects, which are thought to reside at the heart of most galaxies.

Harvard & Smithsonian and member of the EHT collaboration. “Our model decomposes the reconstructed image into the two elements that interest us most, so that we can study the two elements individually rather than mixed.”

The result has been made possible because the EHT is a “computational instrument at its core,” says Avery Broderick, who led the study and is the John Archibald Wheeler Delaney Family Professor at the Perimeter Institute. “It’s as much about algorithms as it is about steel. State-of-the-art algorithmic developments allowed us to probe key features of the image while rendering the rest in the native resolution of the EHT.”

To achieve this result, the team used imaging software they developed called THEMIS, which allowed them to isolate distinct features of the ring from the original observations of the black hole M87 – as well as revealing the telltale imprint of a powerful jet blowing outward from the black hole.

Essentially “taking off” elements of the imagery, says co-author Hung-Yi Pu, assistant professor at National Taiwan Normal University, “the environment around the black hole can then be clearly revealed.”

Black holes were long thought to be invisible until scientists brought them out of hiding with a network world of telescopes known as the name of EHT. Using eight observatories on four continents, all pointed at the same spot in the sky and linked together by nanosecond synchronization, EHT researchers observed two black holes in 2017.

The EHT collaboration unveiled for the first time the supermassive black hole in M87 in 2019. Later in 2022, they revealed the relatively small but tumultuous black hole at the heart of our own Milky Way galaxy, called Sagittarius A(or Sgr A*).

Supermassive black holes occupy the center of most galaxies, packing an incredible amount of mass and energy into a small space the black hole M87 *, for example, is 2 quadrillion (i.e. two followed by 15 zeros) times more massive than the Earth.

The image M87 that scientists unveiled in 2019 was a landmark finding, but the researchers felt they could still refine the picture and glean new information. By applying their new software procedure to the original data from 2017, the team was able to focus the binding power of the data on the phenomena that the theories and models predict lie beneath. the area.

The newly developed technique barely shows its promise on the existing EHT data of 2017.

“As we continue to add more telescopes and build the next generation EHT , the increased quality and quantity of data will allow us to place more definitive constraints on these signatures of which we only now have our first glimpses,” says co-author Paul Tiede, CfA astrophysicist and EHT fellow at Black Gap Initiative of Harvard University.

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