By Nicole Karlis
Though we have plenty of data confirming that they exist, humanity has never directly seen an image of a black hole, the mysterious singularities that warp the spacetime continuum by virtue of their huge masses, producing such gravitational force that not even light can escape .
There have been many simulations and illustrations based on observations — including scientifically-inspired simulations of what the accretion disk might look like, such as the one depicted in the Christopher Nolan movie “Interstellar” — but astronomers to this day don’t truly know what a black hole looks like, or, more accurately, what their “shadow” looks like. (Note that imaging a black hole directly is impossible, given that they do not emit light; rather, astronomers aim to capture the matter that swirls around them at incredible speed due to their immense gravity, and which often radiates light.) Now, astronomers believe they are on the verge of attaining the first direct image of a black hole’s silhouette, based on observations made by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which are expected to be unveiled this year.
When and if that happens remains unclear. Sera Markoff, a professor of theoretical astrophysics and astroparticle physics at the University of Amsterdam, and co-lead of the EHT’s Multiwavelength Working Group, told Salon in an email researchers expect the results “to come out in the first half of 2019.” Markoff told the Guardian earlier this month that scientists managed to capture “very high-quality data at the very high resolutions necessary to observe the [black hole’s] shadow, if it’s really there,” which indicated that the data is awaiting processing. If their observational data proves sound, Markoff says that “everything needs to undergo careful review and be vetted by scientists external to the EHT collaboration, as part of the standard process of peer-review for any scientific publication,” as she explained to Salon.
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