Astrophysicists observe for the first time a photon ring near the event horizon of a black hole

Following the publication in 2019 of the first image of the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy M87

the researchers suggested that behind the fieryorange highlights should hide a ring of photons. Its existence was predicted by Einstein's theory. Astrophysicists have managed to create an even more detailed image of a black hole, which shows the predicted structure.

A photon ring around the black hole in M87. Image: Broderick et al, The Astrophysical Journal

Black holes have long been considered invisible.But in 2019, scientists first published a picture of the black hole at the center of M87, a supergiant elliptical galaxy located 53.5 million light-years from Earth. This image was made possible by the global network of EHT (Event Horizon Telescope) telescopes. It brings together eight interconnected observatories in different parts of the Earth, which study the same objects.

In the new work, astrophysicists usedadditional software methods and visualization algorithms for image reconstruction based on data obtained in 2017 and used for the first image of a black hole. The new image shows a photon ring, consisting of a series of increasingly bright subrings, forming a whole picture.

Photon ring on different days of observations. Image: Broderick et al, The Astrophysical Journal

According to Einstein's theory, black holes surroundphotonic light rings. These are concentric circles of photons thrown off by the black hole's powerful gravity. Despite the fact that their existence was predicted a long time ago, so far no one has been able to observe them.

The Event Horizon Telescope was built specifically forblack hole research. In addition to being the first image of a supermassive black hole, it was also the first image of the relatively small but extremely active black hole Sagittarius A* at the center of the Milky Way.

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