Several weeks ago, astronomers revealed the first picture of a black hole. Now, they are working on ways to acquire even sharper black hole images.
Radboud University astronomers, along with the European Space Agency (ESA) and others, plan to launch a group of radio telescopes into space, able to produce sharper black hole images.
The concept goes by the name Event Horizon Imager (EHI).
They published their plans in the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
A space-based constellation of black-hole-hunting radio telescopes would be able to measure differences in the behavior of real black holes and the characteristics predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
Researchers have also presented simulations of what images of the black hole Sagittarius A* would look if satellites like these would capture them in the future.
“There are lots of advantages to using satellites instead of permanent radio telescopes on Earth, as with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT),” says Freek Roelofs, a Ph.D. candidate at Radboud University and the lead author of the article.
You Might Like This: How Do We Know Black Holes Exist
“In space, you can make observations at higher radio frequencies, because the frequencies from Earth are filtered out by the atmosphere. The distances between the telescopes in space are also larger. This allows us to take a big step forward. We would be able to take images with a resolution more than five times what is possible with the EHT.”
Scientists used EHT to produce the first picture of a black hole. But these images were not sharp enough to test Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.
Researchers are confident that EHI could resolve this problem.
“The fact that the satellites are moving around the Earth makes for considerable advantages,” Radio Astronomy Professor Heino Falcke says. “With them, you can take near perfect images to see the real details of black holes. If small deviations from Einstein’s theory occur, we should be able to see them.”
The EHI could also capture five additional black holes, smaller than the ones that the EHT is currently focusing on.
However, to achieve this ambitious plan, engineers will have to overcome some technical challenges.
“The concept demands that you must be able to ascertain the position and speed of the satellites very accurately,” said Volodymyr Kudriashov, a researcher at the Radboud Radio Lab. “But we really believe that the project is feasible.”
Initially, astronomers expect the EHI telescopes to function independently of the EHT telescopes. But they are also considering a hybrid system where they could eventually combine the two systems.