Washington: The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded 14 million euros to a team of European astrophysicists to construct the first accurate image of a black hole, and to test the predictions of current theories of gravity, including Einstein`s general theory of relativity.
The team, led by three principal investigators -- Heino Falcke, Radboud University Nijmegen; Michael Kramer, Max-Planck-Institut fur Radioastronomie; and Luciano Rezzolla, Goethe University in Frankfurt will combine several telescopes around the globe to peer into the heart of our own galaxy, which hosts a mysterious radio source called Sagittarius A* which is considered to be the central supermassive black hole.
Falcke, professor in radio astronomy at Radboud University in Nijmegen and ASTRON, the Netherlands, said that while most astrophysicists believe black holes exists, nobody has actually ever seen one, asserting that the technology is now advanced enough that we can actually image black holes and check if they truly exist as predicted: If there is no event horizon, there are no black holes.
The scientists want to peer into the heart of our own galaxy, which hosts a mysterious radio source called Sagittarius A*. The object is known to have a mass of around 4 million times the mass of the Sun and is considered to be the central supermassive black hole of the Milky Way.
As gaseous matter is attracted towards the event horizon by the black hole`s gravitational attraction, strong radio emission is produced before the gas disappears. The event horizon should then cast a dark shadow on that bright emission. Given the huge distance to the center of the Milky Way, the shadow is equivalent to the size of an apple on the Moon seen from Earth.
Rezzolla said that Einstein`s general theory of relativity is the best theory of gravity we know, but it is not the only one; he added that they will use these observations to find out if black holes, one of the most cherished astrophysical objects, exist or not, asserting that finally, they have the opportunity to test gravity in a regime that until recently belonged to the realm of science fiction; it will be a turning point in modern science.