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The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has resolved the event horizon of a supermassive black hole

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Published: 16 April 2019 (GMT+10)
galaxy-M87
Figure 1: Using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), scientists obtained an image of the black hole at the centre of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon..
Credit: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

On 10 April the globally coordinated announcement was made of the first ever image of the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the distant galaxy Messier 87 (M87) (figure 1).1 The galaxy is 55 million light-years away and the supermassive black hole was confirmed to have a mass of 6.5 billion suns.

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)2 —a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration—was designed to capture images of black holes at the centre of galaxies.

This is the work of many astronomers using millimetre wave VLBI radio-telescopes3 across the planet. By stitching together the power of 8 state-of-the-art mmWave radio-telescopes they essentially turned the planet into one giant radio-telescope (figure 2). By using such a large telescope and millimetre wavelengths they gained resolution never obtained before that allowed them to image the event horizon, which is about the diameter of our solar system.

The results so far are consistent with all predictions of Einstein’s General Relativity theory.

Map-EHT
Figure 2: Map of the EHT. Stations active in 2017 and 2018 are shown with connecting lines and labelled in yellow, sites in commission are labelled in green, and legacy sites are labelled in red. Nearly redundant baselines are overlaying each other, i.e., to ALMA/APEX and SMA/JCMT. Such redundancy allows improvement in determining the amplitude calibration of the array.
Credit: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

From the biblical creationist perspective this is, yet again, good operational science. There is nothing new here that refutes the biblical timeline of about 6,000 years because that is subject to historical science considerations. It is not an operational science question. (Modern science in creationist thinking) The data was taken from the different telescopes and was assembled and processed over a period of about a year, but those initial observations were taken over a period of 7 days in April of 2017. Over those days the supermassive black hole was ‘observed’. In the same way over the 24-hour period Day 4 of Creation Week about 6,000 years ago all the stars and galaxies (with supermassive black holes) were ’observed’ at the earth as God created them (Genesis 1:16–19). God spoke and “it was so.”

Creationist cosmologists have suggested various ways in which God could have done this with starlight from distant stars visible at the earth in the biblical timeframe. But, ultimately, Creation Week was a miraculous series of events, and God might well have done things in a way that is not accessible to us.

References and notes

  1. National Science Foundation News Release 19-006, Astronomers capture first image of a black hole, nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=298276, 10 April 2019. Return to text.
  2. Event Horizon Telescope, eventhorizontelescope.org, accessed 12 April 2019. Return to text.
  3. VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometric) radio astronomy uses telescopes separated by a large distance. The larger the distances the greater the resolution. The data is taken at various sites at the same time and later assembled as one observation by a post processing algorithm. In this observation, over 7 days, petabytes (1015 bytes) raw data was saved onto 100 hard disk drives. The hard disks were needed to be flown to the central processing centre because the internet cannot handle such a data load. Return to text.

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