Around this time last year, the National Science Foundation and Event Horizon Telescope captured the first-ever photo of a black hole. Thanks to the latest research, future images will get even more impressive. The scientists have discovered a new method that will allow them to capture black hole photos in even more detail and perfectly sharp.
Michael Johnson of the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard and Smithsonian (CfA)explains for phys.org what the image of a black hole looks like. He says that it actually contains a “nested series of rings.”
“Each successive ring has about the same diameter but becomes increasingly sharper because its light orbited the black hole more times before reaching the observer. With the current EHT image, we’ve caught just a glimpse of the full complexity that should emerge in the image of any black hole.”
A team made of observational astronomers, theoretical physicists, and astrophysicists has come up with a new method of capturing the black hole image. It relies on a “photon ring” that surrounds it. This photon ring comes from the particles of light (photons) that circle the black hole. They orbit the black hole at least once before escaping into it, and the new observation method could pick up these streaks of light with more clarity and accuracy than ever.
Interestingly enough, these nested subrings are almost invisible to the naked eye when you look at photos of a black hole. Johnson explains that predicting and observing them could reduce the number of telescopes needed for capturing black hole images:
“While capturing black hole images normally requires many distributed telescopes, the subrings are perfect to study using only two telescopes that are very far apart. Adding one space telescope to the EHT would be enough.”
The new methods will allow for more accurate predictions based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity. According to Daniel Kapec from the Institute for Advanced Study, “we can look forward to lots of advances in the coming years.”
For the scientists, subring observation and any upcoming methods will be of significant importance for learning more about the behavior of black holes. But for us, common people, this also means learning more about space… And more stunning images to admire.
The team has published the paper on this topic in Science Advances, and you can read it here.