Apr 14, 2020 - Science

Waiting on a photo of a black hole

Image of a blackhole in space

The black hole in the center of M87. Photo: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, et al.

An international collaboration that produced the first-ever photo of a black hole last year has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The Event Horizon Telescope collaboration is expected to one day capture a clear photo of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way — revealing exactly what's going on in the heart of our own galaxy.

Details: The EHT uses a network of powerful radio telescopes around the world to take observations in tandem and piece together images of black holes.

  • Last year, the organization released its first photo of the black hole at the center of the galaxy M87, proving out Einstein's predictions about the nature of black holes.
  • Had all gone according to plan, the EHT was planning to send astronomers around the world this year to aid in observations using the telescopes and to bring others into the collaboration.
  • Travel restrictions and concerns about the virus forced the cancellation of those plans.
  • "We just could not ensure everyone's safety as they went to these different observatories and kept up their work," Shep Doeleman, the head of the collaboration, said during a press conference last week.

Yes, but: The collaboration is still planning to use the data they've already gathered to learn more about black holes.

  • By using the data collected in 2017, the EHT was able to see the jets shooting from the quasar 3C 279 in more detail than ever before.
  • The scientists behind the project also hope to mine the data for new discoveries in the coming months.

Go deeper: Where black hole research goes next

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