May 14, 2019 - Science

Seeing a black hole from space

Black hole

Photo: University of Arizona

A couple of well-placed satellites in orbit above Earth could capture an incredibly detailed photo of the black hole at the center of our galaxy, scientists say in a new study in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Why it matters: If scientists can capture better photos of black holes, they might be able to push Einstein’s theory of general relativity closer to its limits.

Details: The proposed Event Horizon Imager would include 2 or 3 radio telescope satellites orbiting Earth that would be able to take photos of the Milky Way's black hole — called Sagittarius A* (pronounced "A-star").

  • These satellites wouldn't need to contend with the distortion caused by gases and other components of Earth's atmosphere, allowing scientists to capture clearer images.
  • "We would be able to take images with a resolution more than five times what is possible with the EHT," Freek Roelofs, co-author of the new study, said in a statement.

The backdrop: The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) recently delivered humanity’s first photo of a black hole — the one at the center of the M87 galaxy.

The intrigue: While the black hole imaged by the EHT looked pretty much exactly as expected, if researchers are able to get a more detailed view of one of these objects, they might see something they weren’t anticipating.

  • "If small deviations from Einstein's theory occur, we should be able to see them," study co-author Heino Falcke said in the statement.

Go deeper: What we learned from the first-ever photo of a black hole

Go deeper