Archive for Event Horizon Telescope

M87: Ring or Artefact?

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on May 13, 2022 by telescoper

Following on from yesterday’s post here is an arXiv preprint that I’ve only just seen, though it was submitted on Tuesday 10th May, ahead of yesterday’s announcement about Sagittarius A*. It says inside the manuscript (though not in the arXiv entry) that it was accepted for publication in ApJ on 5th May, though it has not yet appeared there.

The abstract is:

We report our independent image reconstruction of the M 87 from the public data of the Event Horizon Telescope Collaborators (EHTC). Our result is different from the image published by the EHTC. Our analysis shows that (a) the structure at 230 GHz is consistent with those of lower frequency VLBI observations, (b) the jet structure is evident at 230 GHz extending from the core to a few mas, though the intensity rapidly decreases along the axis, and (c) the unresolved core is resolved into bright three features presumably showing an initial jet with a wide opening angle of about 70 deg. The ring-like structures of the EHTC can be created not only from the public data, but also from the simulated data of a point image. Also, the rings are very sensitive to the FOV size. The u-v coverage of EHT lack about 40 micro-asec fringe spacings. Combining with a very narrow FOV, it created the 40 micro-asec ring structure. We conclude that the absence of the jet and the presence of the ring in the EHTC result are both artifacts owing to the narrow FOV setting and the u-v data sampling bias effect of the EHT array. Because the EHTC’s simulations only take into account the reproduction of the input image models, and not those of the input noise models, their optimal parameters can enhance the effects of sampling bias and produce artifacts such as the 40 micro-asec ring structure, rather than reproducing the correct image.

I draw your attention to the sentence “The ring-like structures of the EHTC can be created not only from the public data, but also from the simulated data of a point image”. In other words the authors (Miyoshi, Kato and Makino) are saying that the ring-like structure in the now-iconic image could be an artefact of the image reconstruction process as they can apparently be produced by a point source.

From the manuscript itself:

The EHTC conducted various surveys, but their methods were not objective and biased towards their desires from the very beginning of their analysis. They also failed to perform the basic data checking that VLBI experts always do.

That’s very blunt. The plot thickens!

It’s a lengthy paper and I haven’t gone through it in detail. Comments from experts are welcome through the box below.

Our own Galactic Black Hole

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on May 12, 2022 by telescoper

As I mentioned a while ago the Event Horizon Telescope team held a press conference this afternoon and to nobody’s surprise they used it announce an image of the (shadow of the event horizon around the) black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.

Here it is:

You can read the full press release here.

You may recall a great deal of excitement about three years ago concerning the imaging of the “shadow” of the event horizon of the black hole in the centre of the galaxy M87. The question I was asked most frequently back then is that there’s a much closer black hole in the centre of our own Galaxy, the Milky Way, so why wasn’t that imaged first?

It it true is that the black hole in the centre of M87 is ~103 times further away from us than the black hole in the centre of the Milky Way – known to its friends as Sagittarius A* or SgrA* for short – but is also ~103 times more massive, so its Schwarzschild radius is ~103 times larger. In terms of angular resolution, therefore, the observational challenge of imaging the event horizon is similar in the two cases. However, in the the case of the Milky Way’s black hole the timescales involved are much shorter than in M87 and there is a greater level of obscuration along the line of sight. That’s why it took longer to produce the image.

It’s a very difficult observation of course and I’m not sure of the significance of the “lumps” you can see, but the dark region in the centre is what the image is really about and that seems to be exactly the predicted size. The resolution is about 20 microarcseconds. Congratulations to the Event Horizon Telescope team!

If you’re interested in learning more about how this image was made I recommend this short video:

Astronomical Heads Up

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on May 3, 2022 by telescoper

You may recall a great deal of excitement about three years ago concerning the imaging of the “shadow” of the event horizon of the black hole in the centre of the galaxy M87. There was so much interest in this measurement that you could hardly move without seeing this picture somewhere or other:

The question I was asked most frequently back then is that there’s a much closer black hole in the centre of our own Galaxy, the Milky Way, so why wasn’t that imaged first? The answer is that the black hole in the centre of M87 is about 1000 times further away from us than the black hole in the centre of the Milky Way – known to its friends as Sagittarius A* or SgrA* for short – but is also about 1000 times more massive, so its Schwarzschild radius is 1000 times larger. In terms of angular resolution, therfore, the observational challenge of imaging the event horizon is similar in the two cases.

I mention this because the Event Horizon Telescope team who made the above image are holding a press conference next week at ESO on “groundbreaking Milky Way results from the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration”.

I wonder what these “groundbreaking results” might be?

An Ungracious Nobel

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on October 25, 2020 by telescoper

Reinhard Genzel

You will no doubt recall the announcement a few weeks ago of the award of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics to Roger Penrose, Andrea Ghez and Reinhard Genzel.

Last week I saw an interview Professor Genzel to the German magazine Der Spiegel, which you can find here. I posted in on Facebook and was going to blog about it but I was busy and it slipped my mind. You can read the interview yourself and form your own opinion about it, but I found parts of it churlish and discourteous. You would think someone who had just won a Nobel prize would be a bit more gracious. Perhaps Genzel resents having to share it?

The first thing I found regrettable was the part about the work of the Event Horizon Telescope that I reported here last year:

Genzel: It was good that their image received a lot of attention. It is important to get people excited about research. And astronomy has a special role to play.

DER SPIEGEL: Are you trying to say that the image was good for attracting an audience, but wasn’t all that important from a scientific point of view?

Genzel: No, I wouldn’t say that. It is true, though, that such a beautiful, orange picture is enticing, even if it can’t be clearly interpreted. An open discussion is still ongoing among experts: Are we really sure of what we are looking at in this picture?

It is true that there are questions about how precisely to interpret the famous image, but did he really have to sound so dismissive? It seems to me that what follows  “No, I wouldn’t say that..” indicates that is precisely what he thinks.

I think of more importance though is what the interview reveals about his attitude to Andrea Ghez, with whom he shared half the prize. I’m not going to comment on the obvious falling out between the two. That kind of thing is regrettable but it does happen from time to time, and I don’t know enough about the background to attach any blame to either side. The question is, though, why would Genzel choose this moment to drag this all up? He seems to be going out of his way to imply that Andrea Ghez didn’t deserve her share of the prize.  Ypu would think someone who had just won a Nobel Prize would be a bit more gracious. And although he doesn’t say it explicitly there is more than a hint that he thinks Andrea Ghez only got her share because she is a woman.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into his words, but I know I’m not the only one to have been “disappointed” by these remarks. I’ve always supported the idea of the Physics Nobel Prize primarily on the grounds that it gets people talking about Physics, which this year’s announcement certainly has done. I just wish this particular interview had been more focussed on celebrating the science than on scoring points over his co-winner.

 

 

 

On the Fellowship of Roy Kerr

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on April 18, 2019 by telescoper

Among the new Fellows of the Royal Society announced this week, I was astonished to see the name of Roy Kerr, the man who gave his name to the Kerr Metric an exact solution of Einstein’s equations of general relativity which describes the geometry of space-time around a rotating black hole.

When I say “astonished” I don’t mean that Kerr does not deserve this recognition. Far from it. I’m astonished because it has taken so long:the Kerr solution was published way back in 1963.

Anyway, better late than never, and heartiest congratulations to him!

While I’m on about Roy Kerr I’ll also say that I now think there is a very strong case for him to be awarded a Nobel Prize. The reasons are twofold.

One is that all the black hole binary systems whose coalescences produced gravitational waves detected by LIGO have involved Kerr black holes. Without Kerr’s work it would not have been possible to construct the template waveforms needed to extract signals from the LIGO data.

Second, and even more topically, the black hole in M87 recently imaged (above) by the Event Horizon Telescope is also described by the Kerr geometry. Without Kerr’s work the modelling of light paths around this object would not have been possible either.

Results from the Event Horizon Telescope

Posted in Astrohype, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on April 10, 2019 by telescoper

Following yesterday’s little teaser, let me point out that there is a press conference taking place today (at 2pm Irish Summer Time, that’s 3pm Brussels) to announce a new result from the Event Horizon Telescope. The announcement will be streamed live here.

Sadly, I’m teaching at the time of the press conference so I won’t be able to watch, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t!

I’ll post pictures and comments when I get back. Watch this space. Or you could watch this video..

UPDATE: Well, there we are. Here is the image of the `shadow’ of the event horizon around the black hole in M87:

The image is about 42 micro arcseconds across. I guess to people brought up on science fiction movies with fancy special effects the image is probably a little underwhelming, but it really is an excellent achievement to get that resolution. Above all, it’s a great example of scientific cooperation – 8 different telescopes all round the world. The sizeable European involvement received a substantial injection of funding from the European Union too!

Other parameters are here:

The accompanying EU press release is here. Further information can be found here. The six publications relating to this result can be found here: