New way to see thin light rings around distant black holes

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Almost a year ago, astronomers demonstrated the first ever photograph of the surroundings of a black hole. The heroine of the now famous portrait was the supermassive hole M87 * in the center of the distant galaxy M 87, located more than 50 million light-years away, and the EHT global network of radio telescopes was the key author.

The picture obtained then confirmed many theoretical ideas about what is happening with black holes and became a world sensation.

Well, now a team of scientists led by Michael Johnson of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory has presented the results of a new, even more detailed analysis of the EHT data collected. In the refined portrait of M87 *, rows of light rings surrounding the bottomless singularity in the center of the black hole became visible. Details of this work are reported in an article published in the journal Science Advances.

Recall that a black hole is an area of ​​colossal gravity, the center of which (the event horizon) is not able to leave even photons moving at the speed of light. Particles flying at a decent distance from it deviate from the direct trajectory, and those that are closer can describe one or more turns before they break out and go on.

They form the photon sphere , where they accumulate for a short time, after which some fly away, while others “fall” into the bowels of the hole.

The same EHT image was not clear enough for the photon sphere to be seen. It should appear as a thin, light ring at the inner edge of a bright accretion disk. However, the theory predicts that the structure of the photon sphere is much more complicated. With sufficient resolution, it should look like a series of closely spaced, nested rings – the farther from the center, the more vague.

If such “photon rings” were visible, they would say a lot about the size, mass and rotation of their black hole. The Johnson team received such a picture for M87 *, modeling it on the basis of real observational data, as well as theoretical calculations.

Thus, astronomers received new mathematical tools for analyzing observations of black holes – and are confident that soon they will allow us to consider such objects in even higher resolution.

In comments for the Smithsonian Observatory press service, Johnson added that for an array of telescopes – a radio interferometer – these embedded rings should be easily distinguishable. “It’s enough to add another space telescope to the EHT, and that’s enough,” the scientist said.


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