The Two Scientific Ways We Can Improve Our Images Of Event Horizons
“By properly equipping and calibrating each participating telescope, the resolution sharpens, replacing an individual telescope’s diameter with the array’s maximum separation distance. At the Event Horizon Telescope’s maximum baseline and wavelength capabilities, it will attain resolutions of ~15 μas: a 50% improvement over the first observations. Currently limited to 345 GHz, we could strive for higher radio frequencies like 1-to-1.6 THz, progressing our resolution to just ~3-to-5 μas. But the greatest enhancement would come from extending our radio telescope array into space.”
It’s absolutely incredible that we’ve got our first image of a black hole’s event horizon, and a monumental achievement for science. But like all scientists, opening the door to a new “first” only increases our drive to surpass what we’ve accomplished and improve our capabilities beyond anything we’ve achieved before. For an event horizon, that means higher resolutions and sharper images, and we have two scientific ways to get there: probing higher frequencies and extending the length of our baseline to beyond the limits of planet Earth.
Both of these are technologically possible, and will likely, over the coming years and decades, be how we push past our scientific limits. Come learn how.
LIGO’s Successor Approved; Will Discover Incredible New Sources Of Gravitational Waves
“The huge advance of LISA, though, will be the ability to detect objects spiraling into and merging with the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies. Stars and other forms of matter are constantly falling into black holes at the galactic center, both in our own galaxy and well beyond. These events often result in the ejection of matter, the acceleration of charged particles and the emission of radio and X-ray light. But they should also result in the emission of gravitational waves, and LISA will be sensitive to those. For the first time, we’ll be able to see supermassive black holes in gravitational waves.”
There’s no doubt that LIGO has given us one of the most incredible breakthroughs of the 21st century: the direct detection of gravitational waves. But as wonderful as LIGO is, so far it’s only been able to detect the very final stages of mergers of stellar mass-scale black holes, and only every few months at that. The technique of laser interferometry is sound and powerful, but properties inherent to Earth itself fundamentally limit how good LIGO can potentially be. But these restrictions go away if we go to space! Not only can we eliminate seismic noise, cease accounting for the curvature of the Earth, and get a better vacuum for free, but we can achieve much longer baselines. By sending a series of spacecraft up into orbit behind the Earth, we can detect more massive, more distant, and slower-period sources than LIGO could ever hope to see.
LISA is the gravitational wave observatory of the future, and the European Space Agency just greenlit it for 2034! Come get the exciting news and find out what science it will be able to do today!
The Failed Experiment That Changed The World
This null result — the fact that there was no luminiferous aether — was actually a huge advance for modern science, as it meant that light must have been inherently different from all other waves that we knew of. The resolution came 18 years later, when Einstein’s theory of special relativity came along. And with it, we gained the recognition that the speed of light was a universal constant in all reference frames, that there was no absolute space or absolute time, and — finally — that light needed nothing more than space and time to travel through.
In the 1880s, it was clear that something was wrong with Newton’s formulation of the Universe. Gravitation didn’t explain everything, objects behaved bizarrely close to the speed of light, and light was exhibiting wave-like properties. But surely, even if it were a wave, it required a medium to travel through, just like all other waves? That was the standard thinking, and the genius of Albert A. Michelson was put to work to test it. Because, he reasoned, the Earth was moving around the Sun, the speed of light should get a boost in that forward direction, and then have to fight that boost on the return trip. The perpendicular direction, on the other hand, would be unaffected. This motion of light should be detectable in the form of interferometry, where light was split into two perpendicular components, sent on a journey, reflected, and then recombined.
The null results of this experiment changed the Universe, and the technology is still used today in experiments like LIGO. Come learn about the greatest failed experiment of all-time!