Brandeis professor served on working groups that investigated M87 galaxy black hole
Scientists from the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration took the first ever photo of a black hole on April 10. Prof. John Wardle (PHYS) at the University served on four of the EHT’s 23 working groups. The photo is a major development in science; it “shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole that is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun,” according to an April 10 article in BrandeisNOW, written by its science content editor Lawrence Goodman.
The black hole is at the center of the M87 galaxy, which is located 55 million light years away from Earth. The image shows the “shadow” of the black hole, which allows researchers to determine its mass, per the same article.
The image of the black hole was obtained by combining images from radio telescopes in six locations across the globe. According to the Event Horizon Telescope’s website, “The image provides the strongest evidence to date for the existence of supermassive black holes and opens a new window onto the study of black holes, their event horizons, and gravity.”
By analyzing the polarization of the M87 black hole’s radio emissions, Wardle helped other researchers to further investigate the magnetic field surrounding the black hole. In addition, he worked on the publication of papers related to the topic.
According to Goodman’s interview with Wardle in the BrandeisNOW article, the image provides support for the applicability of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which explains the distorted relationship between time and space, outside of the solar system. “What is extraordinary is that GR, first published 100 years ago, appears to be an exactly correct description of the physical world we live in, whatever tests we subject it to. I can’t think of another physical theory that has lasted so long and so successfully,” said Walder.