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Astronomers Find Light from Behind a Black Hole!

Astronomers Find Light from Behind a Black Hole!
Written by Aradhita Saraf (Weloquent)

Like most things in life, science is also constantly evolving. What our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers were scientifically able to prove and deduce may not be true for the scientists of today. Our scientific tools, methods, and formulas are advancing by the day leading to newer discoveries and updates on older “truths.”

Earlier this month, we woke up to an exciting update with regards to a revolutionary discovery from the community of astronomers. Research suggests that “astronomers have directly detected light from behind a supermassive black hole.”

This is quite a mind-boggling discovery for the world, and the following are the reasons why-

1. It Changes the Definition of Black Holes.

As of 2018, NASA described a black hole with the following definition -

“A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.

Because no light can get out, people can't see black holes. They are invisible. Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes. The special tools can see how stars that are very close to black holes act differently than other stars.”

Now that astronomers have spotted light behind a black hole, that drastically changes the whole definition of black holes. What should we even call them anymore? 


2. It Proves Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity True 


Almost 100 years ago, in 1916, Einstein had predicted the ability of a black hole’s gravity to bend light. However, this idea had never been proven until now.

Today, after observing Sagittarius A - a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy - for several decades, astronomers have found proof of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity through a specific star dancing around Sagittarius A.

As per German Astrophysicist, Reinhard Genzel, "Einstein's General Relativity predicts that bound orbits of one object around another are not closed.. but precess forwards in the plane of motion. This famous effect — first seen in the orbit of the planet Mercury around the Sun — was the first evidence in favor of General Relativity." However, this behavior was never witnessed around a black hole.

Genzel continues to call the newest discovery an observational breakthrough that  “detected the same effect in the motion of a star orbiting the compact radio source Sagittarius A* at the center of the Milky Way.” 


3. It Allows for Greater Scientific Discovery in the Future

This discovery was possible because of extremely powerful instruments and specialized telescopes: NASA’s NuSTAR, and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton.

Motivated by the success of the discovery, ESA is now “working on a new x-ray observatory, Athena, that will hopefully provide astrophysicists more chances to see behind these black holes with unprecedented resolution.” 


The lead author of the study, Dan Wilkins, an astrophysicist at Stanford University says, “If you want to understand how galaxies form, you really need to understand these processes outside the black hole that are able to release these enormous amounts of energy and power, these amazingly bright light sources that we’re studying.”


Thus, this discovery opens up a whole new galaxy of more truths waiting to be explored by us. What are your thoughts on black holes? Tell us by sending us an email at communications@elproschools.edu.in