It takes an Earth-sized telescope to observe the black hole’s outline; learn how registration was made | The subject

The world saw on Thursday (12) the first record of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. It is a cosmic abyss that sucks in everything that approaches it, even light.

The image was taken by the Event Horizon Telescope, a project made up of 11 radio observatories distributed in 8 different locations around the world.

The Milky Way and the location of its central black hole as seen by the ALMA telescope. — Photo: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (, EHT Collaboration

Without this international collaboration, an Earth-sized telescope would be needed to observe the outline of Sagittarius A*. This is what astrophysicist Thaisa Storchi Bergmann, from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, explains. The scientist became internationally known when she published a study providing evidence of a supermassive black hole.

  • Know more: what are black holes?

“In space, when you want to observe a small target, the smaller the target, the bigger the antenna or telescope has to be. To observe an orange on the moon – which is the equivalent angular diameter of the black hole’s event horizon – you need a antenna the size of the Earth”, he says.

Thais also explains why the record made by the 11 observatories represents a scientific advance to be celebrated beyond the possibility of observing the black hole.

“This technique is very sophisticated. It involves a lot of computational challenges and all these observatories have to observe the same target at the same time and then combine all the signals. This is a major technological challenge that has only been accomplished today.”

Listen to the full interview in episode #705 of The Subject.

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