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Portrait of a black hole

Black holes represent the wonder and mystery of modern astronomy. These sinkholes in space have inspired a whole new field of deep-space research.

Nothing, not even light rays, can escape the gravitational clutches of black holes. They are deformities in the spacetime continuum and are created by highly compact masses and then fed by cosmic debris for millions, even billions of years.

If humans could travel down a black hole (not really very likely despite sci-fi tales to the contrary), they'd end up-where? No one really knows. What's inside these black holes? Do they emerge somewhere-or somewhen-else? If we ever know for sure, it will be thanks to mathematics and observation. The super gravity field lines and extreme cosmic radiations around these holes would obliterate all life, so we're not likely to ever get too close to these weird objects.

This year began a complex effort by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to electronically link dozens of radio astronomical observatories around the world to perform a very daring task-photograph a black hole for the first time in history.

When completed around the year 2020, the proposed Event Horizon Telescope, or EHT, will span our globe using a process called Very Long Baseline Interferometry. VLBI enables simultaneous observations of deep-space objects by multiple telescopes. In the case of the EHT project now underway, the radio telescopes are being combined to create a single, giant telescope on Earth. Thus, the scope's size equals the extreme separation between the telescopes.

Currently international observatories on five continents, including one at the U.S. South Pole Station, are teaming up as the key components of EHT.

The target of EHT is the Milky Way's supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* or Sadge-A Star for short. This object, discovered in 1974, cannot be observed in the optical spectrum; this means no human eye can ever see it.

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