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We’re Making Space History!

What does a black hole look like?

We might have seen projections in science books, but we don’t really know. That’s because black holes are so dense and have such intense gravitational pull that they absorb everything, even light. Black holes are one of the great mysteries of the universe, all the more tantalizing because we can’t get close enough to study them.

Image courtesy of International Business Times

So there exists in the universe this powerful and exciting phenomenon that we struggle to see or measure because it absorbs anything that gets close, and it’s so far away that we would need a telescope the size of Earth to really see it. Fortunately, scientists from around the globe, including Speaker Katie Bouman, have been working around this problem for years—and they have a solution.

The Event Horizon Telescope is a system of telescopes linked together to form a network of images that can be combined to form a reasonably accurate picture of a faraway object, like a black hole. The telescopes are as far apart as Arizona, the South Pole, and France. The system is referred to as the Event Horizon Telescope (or EHT) because what it sees is known as the “event horizon,” or the edge of the black hole’s gravitational reach. As Katie explained, it’s “a little like turning Earth into a giant disco ball,” where multiple mirrors take pictures that can be combined to form one, larger image.

EHT project
Image courtesy of International Business Times

Katie isn’t an astronomer; she’s a mathematician, working with the incredibly complex equations needed obtain those images and combine them into a reasonably accurate and cohesive whole. It’s an incredible process putting together the puzzle of different images, and Katie will make space history as she helps produce our first real image of one of the most mysterious phenomena in space.

Katie is with the team this week as they begin their first observations on Wednesday, April 4th. We’re extremely proud to have her in our community, and excited to see her work make space history!

Watch Katie’s talk to learn more: