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Radio telescopes to try taking first photo of black hole

Monday January 16, 2012 09:34:40 PM, IANS

London: A radio telescope project that would connect up to 50 telescopes scattered around the globe could help photograph a black hole for the first time, scientists have said.

The radio telescopes would include those on the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii and also a dish at the South Pole, the Daily Mail reported.

The project, called the Event Horizon Telescope, could capture the first images of the huge black hole -- four million times the mass of the sun -- at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy.

Event horizon refers to the boundary at the edge of a black hole beyond which the laws of physics cannot describe what happens. It is a point of no return, from which no light or radiation can escape. Because of it, black holes are invisible from Earth, the report said.

The idea of black holes was first raised by Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity, and has been confirmed by decades of measurements and observations of space.

"Nobody has ever taken a picture of a black hole. We are going to do just that," said Dimitrios Psaltis, an associate professor of astrophysics at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory.

"Even five years ago, such a proposal would not have seemed credible. Now we have the technological means to take a stab at it," said Sheperd Doeleman, assistant professor at MIT and principal investigator of the project.

Black holes pull in light and all other energy and no radiation reaches Earth. They appear as blank space to telescopes. But a glow round the outside could let scientists see the outline.

By imaging the glow of matter swirling around the black hole before it goes over the edge of the point of no return, scientists can see the outline of the black hole, also called its shadow.

Black holes remain among the least understood phenomena in the universe.

Most if not all, galaxies are believed to harbour a supermassive black hole at their centre, and smaller ones scattered throughout.

The Milky Way is known to be home to about 25 small black holes ranging from five to 10 times the sun's mass.




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