The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration has made a significant discovery about the Milky Way, but we don’t know what it is yet. Members of the team are set to announce the finding in a press conference May 12, hosted by the National Science Foundation. Simultaneous press briefings are planned in Germany, Mexico, Japan, China, Chile, and Taiwan. What could the big news be?
All that’s been disclosed so far is that the results have to do with the Milky Way galaxy, our cosmic home. Back in 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope similarly teased some big news, and it turned out to be first-ever image of a black hole. So we have good reason to expect that next week’s announcement will be exciting.
The Event Horizon Telescope is a network of synchronised radio observatories across Earth; together, they create an array that can capture much higher resolution imaging than any single dish alone. It has two primary observing targets: the galaxy M87, which surrounds the black hole the telescope imaged back in 2019, and Sagittarius A-star (Sgr A*), the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. Sgr A* is thought to be around 4 million times the mass of our Sun and is 26,000 light-years from Earth.
Next week’s news pertains to our galaxy. That’s all we know for sure. The key science objectives of the telescope are imaging a black hole, testing Einstein’s theory of general relativity, understanding black hole growth, evolution, and feeding, and drawing a bead on the massive particle jets that shoot out of some black holes at nearly the speed of light.