science

The first image of a black hole supports Einstein’s theory of relativity

Einstein’s theory, or the idea that gravity is a matter that distorts space-time, has persisted for a hundred years with new astronomical discoveries.

Researchers from the Event Horizon Telescope, the team that photographed the central black hole of M87 last year, analyzed the black hole’s “shadow”.

Black holes do not shade in the usual sense because they are not solid objects that block light from passing through them.

Instead, black holes interact with light slightly differently but create a similar effect. A black hole can pull light toward itself, and while light cannot escape from inside the black hole, it is possible for light to escape in a region around the event horizon, or the point of no return. This in between space can appear as a shadow.

Because black holes have such tremendous gravity, which curves spacetime, they can actually act like a magnifier that makes the black hole’s shadow appear larger than it is.

This is a simulation of the M87 black hole showing the motion of plasma as it orbits around the black hole. The thin, shiny ring that can be seen in blue is the edge of what researchers call a black hole's shadow.

The research team measured this distortion and found that the size of this black hole’s shadow corresponds to the theory of relativity – or matter that distorts spacetime to create gravity.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Physical review letters.
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“This is really just the beginning. We have now shown that it is possible to use an image of a black hole to test the theory of gravity,” said Lea Medeiros, co-author and post-doctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey. , As current situation. “This test will be more powerful once we visualize the black hole in the center of our galaxy and in future EHT observations with additional telescopes being added to the group.”

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It’s an intense test of gravity, right here on the edge of a supermassive black hole, compared to previous gravitational tests like the detection of gravitational waves or ripples in space-time or even the displacement of starlight seen during the 1919 solar eclipse.

This visualization, including the first image of the black hole, shows the new scale developed to test the predictions of modified gravitational theories versus measuring the magnitude of M87's shadow.

The black hole in this study is 6.5 billion times larger than our sun, while gravitational wave detectors on Earth monitor black holes that are five to tens of times the mass of the sun.

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This scope helps to further understand the properties of black holes, the visible aspects and their invisible structures.

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“Using the scale we developed, we showed that the measured size of the black hole shadow in M87 narrows the area of ​​maneuver to make adjustments to Einstein’s theory of general relativity by approximately 500 factors, compared to previous tests in the solar system.” Feryal Özel, co-author of the study and professor of astrophysics at the University of Arizona, said in a statement. “Many methods for modifying general relativity fail to test the new, more compact black hole shadow.”

Now that researchers know that they can use images of black holes to test the theory of gravity, it opens up more possibilities for the future.

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“Together with observations of gravitational waves, this marks the beginning of a new era in black hole astrophysics,” Demetrius Psaltis, the study’s lead author and professor of astrophysics at the University of Arizona, said in a statement.

While the theory of relativity has passed all the tests that have been done to date, more study is needed to confirm whether it will continue to be compatible with astrophysical objects.

“For the first time, we have a different scale in which we can do a 500 times better test, and this scale is the size of the black hole’s shadow,” Ozil said. “When we get an image of a black hole at the center of our galaxy, we can further restrict deviations from general relativity.”

Phil Schwartz

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