Questions about Black Hole Photography

A bit late to the post party but I wanted to clarify some information before going ahead, I asked Dr Brad Tucker some questions in regards to the information I have been reading about the Black Hole Photograph. There’s been a bit of lazy journalism in the articles I have read, so I wanted to get to the source.

Hi Brad, thanks for letting me ask some questions; Dr Katie Bourman’s latest scientific achievement has taken the world by storm. I have seen some sites say there were 8 telescopes, some said 10, exactly how many telescopes were used to collect the data needed to render the image of the black hole?

There are 8 telescopes involved in EHT: ALMA (Chile), APEX (Chile), SMT (Arizona), IRAM (Spain), JCMT (Hawaii), LMT (Mexico), SPT (Antartica), and SMT (Hawaii).

How come we can take a picture of a black hole 500 million trillion km from Earth, but not one that’s closer?

Doing Sagittarius A* is harder as it is smaller (and therefore requires more precision to resolve it) and as there is lots of stuff in between us and the black hole, it is hard to see through the stuff in the way.

Jonathan Weintroub’s team developed a physical instrumentation for the EHT project, what off-the-shelf products and existing telescopes did he use?

Interferometry (the technique they used) has been around for ages.  They used the software and projects designed for projects like the VLBI (an interferometer here in Australia) and telescopes that have already been built and used for other things to do this.  That is why it happened so quickly, lots of the components were already done.

What does this mean now to the scientific community that such technology exists to image and locate black holes, would that mean we could potentially locate hidden planets?

There are multiple plans to do the same technique to directly image small Earth-like planets up to 100ly away.  One of the groups where I work is designing an array of small satellites to try to do this.

Thanks for the info!

The final system was able to collect and store 5 petabytes of data (five million gigabytes). For Alien fans out there that’s much more than David 8’s fluid intelligence on the order of 1012 neurons or 200 petaflops, roughly about twice the neural net capacity of humans.

Here’s a round up of interesting articles regarding the photograph and the importance of Dr Katie Bourman’s role.

Here’s a very handy video by Veritasium which explains it in simpler terms