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At the Event Horizon: Astrophysicists Set to Reveal First Photos of Black Holes

© ESO/L. Calçadaartist impression of the surroundings of a supermassive black hole
artist impression of the surroundings of a supermassive black hole - Sputnik International
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In a milestone for cosmological research, astronomers have announced that they will reveal on Wednesday the first-ever photographic image of a black hole.

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In what is being heralded as a key scientific breakthrough, scientists from around the world will release the first-ever images of a black hole — celestial behemoths so dense that their gravitational field swallows everything, including light, that it comes in contact with.

In an announcement scheduled for Wednesday, April 10, at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), the US National Science Foundation in Washington will release a "groundbreaking result from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project," according to multiple reports.

The EHT project, an international scientific collaboration, was formed in 2012 as a means of directly observing the area immediately surrounding a black hole.

Concurrent announcements are set to occur in Tokyo, Brussels, Taipei, Santiago, and Shanghai, according to the EHT website.

One of the most intriguing of spacetime environments, the region around a black hole — described as the ‘event horizon' — is also one of the most violent in the known universe, as matter inexorably hurtling into the dark maw is mangled to what scientists guess to be the subatomic level, while light itself is rendered permanently captive, leading to the celestial singularity's picturesque name.

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The international team of over 200 globally-synched scientists, researchers and astrophysicists have not offered a peep about what will be shown on Wednesday, although they are not shy about the project and its implications.

"It's a visionary project to take the first photograph of a black hole. We are a collaboration of over 200 people internationally," asserted astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman, EHT director at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian, in March, cited by Reuters.

The new findings will test legendary physicist Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, according to EHT project astrophysicist Dimitrios Psaltis.

To conduct their discoveries, the EHT looked at two supermassive black holes: Sagittarius A* at the center of our Milky Way galaxy and M87, at the center of nearby galaxy Virgo A.

Sagittarius A* is measured as being some 26,000 light years from Earth and massing approximately 4 million times that of our sun. Virgo A is calculated to be some 3.5 billion times the mass of our sun and situated about 54 million light-years from our solar system.

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Recently revealed to represent a wide array of sizes — from tiny pinpricks to objects large enough to swallow a galactic cluster — black holes are formed when extremely large stars die, collapsing in upon themselves with a gravity so high that all matter and radiation — including light — is trapped inside the event horizon boundary layer.

The new observations will be used to detect evidence of what happens at the edge, or shadow, of a black hole, particularly as Einstein's predictions — if correct — permit accurate measurements of the object's size and shape.

"The shape of the shadow will be almost a perfect circle in Einstein's theory," Psaltis stated, adding, however, that "if we find it to be different than what the theory predicts, then we go back to square one and we say, ‘Clearly, something is not exactly right,'" cited by Reuters.

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