Ask all about space

Our ex­perts an­swer your ques­tions about the uni­verse

All About Space - - Contents -

yes and no. Black holes were first un­am­bigu­ously iden­ti­fied in our galaxy more than 40 years ago, and since then they have been found in vast num­bers both in the Milky Way and also at the cores of pretty much ev­ery large galaxy that has been stud­ied in de­tail. the holy grail of ob­ser­va­tional re­search in this field is to ob­tain an ‘im­age’ of the im­me­di­ate sur­round­ings of a black hole and to ob­serve the flows of mat­ter around it. all of our the­ory tells us that noth­ing can es­cape from the event hori­zon of a black hole, not even light. in fact, this is how a black hole is char­ac­terised. how­ever, the­ory also tells us that in­di­rect ex­change of en­ergy can make the event hori­zons glow in a process first pro­posed by physi­cist stephen hawk­ing. find­ing ev­i­dence of such glow­ing black hole hori­zons will be a very im­por­tant dis­cov­ery, but none have been found so far. as our tele­scopes be­come more pow­er­ful across the full spec­trum of en­er­gies, from ra­dio waves to gamma rays, we aim to probe ever closer to black holes in the uni­verse. Who knows what sur­prises we may find.

Poshak Gandhi, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in the School of Physics and As­tron­omy at the Univer­sity of Southamp­ton

imag­ing a black hole would be a hugesci­en­tific break­through

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