Last spring, the world saw its first-ever image of a black hole, a cosmic feature scientists have been certain existed but were never able to detect against the darkness of space.
The historic, years-long, multinational effort required a large team of scientists, including two from BU’s Institute for Astrophysical Research: Alan Marscher, professor of astronomy, and Svetlana Jorstad, senior research scientist.
“This is confirmation that black holes with event horizons exist,” says Jorstad.
BU researchers Alan Marscher and Svetlana Jorstad worked at Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative Center to make high-quality pictures of the hot gas surrounding the supermassive black hole.
The team of Marscher, Jorstad, and more than 200 other scientists—known as the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration—had to analyze a wealth of data collected from multiple high-precision radio dishes around the world. Their findings and the first black hole image from the EHT were published in a series of six papers in the Astrophysical Journal Letters in April 2019. The EHT collaboration was awarded the inaugural Diamond Achievement Award by the National Science Foundation in May 2019.
For their part, Marscher and Jorstad worked for two years with about 30 other scientists, including two week-long sessions at Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative Center. They developed imaging techniques to make high-quality pictures with data from the EHT of the bright, hot gas surrounding the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy M87.
Marscher and Jorstad plan to continue working on EHT data, with hopes of imaging the region farther from the black hole, where jets of high-energy particles originate.