Scientists around the globe have combined their resources to form a virtual Earth-sized telescope that can hopefully provide the first-ever images of an actual black hole.
Eight giant radio telescopes in six locations are being networked together between April 5 and 14 to form what is being called an Earth-sized telescope that scientists plan to use to gather images and data of the black hole in the middle of the Milky Way galaxy, according to Mashable.
The Event Horizon Telescope will take aim at the Sagittarius A* black hole, which has a mass 4 million times that of our sun and is 26,000 light-years away.
“That’s like trying to image a grapefruit on the surface of the moon,” said Gopal Narayanan, a researcher from the University of Massachusetts Amherst who is working on the EHT project, Mashable reported.
The project links telescopes from Hawaii, Arizona, California, Mexico, Chile, Spain, and Antarctica using a technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry on the most massive scale ever attempted to date, Mashable reported.
The data collected will take about six months to be compiled and analyzed by supercomputers after the project is complete, according to NBC News.
“With data from this project, we will understand things about black holes that we have never understood before,” Narayanan said, Mashable reported.
Although a black hole is black, the superheated plasma that surrounds it can make it look very bright from a distance, and from a closer range, can cast a shadow on the plasma behind the black hole to produce a silhouette detectable at some wavelengths. The result will be a crescent of light, NBC reported.
The project will observe Sagittarius A* for two nights during the project window, but will also use the massive virtual Earth-sized telescope to look for other visible black holes as well. Bad weather at any of the sites could derail the project, NBC reported.
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