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Can One Really Photograph a Black Hole? Some Scepticism By Brian Simpson and Mrs Vera West

     The mainstream media have been jumping up and down about a 29-year old female physicist who has allegedly photographed a black hole, or that is the impression generated by some reports. Thus, she is promoted as the face of feminist STEM. Better reports say that she was part of the team of around 200 researchers, although some reports imply that she led the team. However, we could find no evidence of this from an examination of the main academic paper:

“The Size, Shape, and Scattering of Sagittarius A* at 86 GHz: First VLBI with ALMA”

S. Issaoun, M. D. Johnson, L. Blackburn, C. D. Brinkerink, M. Mościbrodzka, A. Chael, C. Goddi, I. Martí-Vidal, J. Wagner, S. S. Doeleman, H. Falcke, T. P. Krichbaum, K. Akiyama, U. Bach, K. L. Bouman, G. C. Bower, A. Broderick, I. Cho, G. Crew, J. Dexter, V. Fish, R. Gold, J. L. Gómez, K. Hada, A. Hernández-Gómez, M. Janßen, M. Kino, M. Kramer, L. Loinard, R.-S. Lu, S. Markoff, D. P. Marrone, L. D. Matthews, J. M. Moran, C. Müller, F. Roelofs, E. Ros, H. Rottmann, S. Sanchez, R. P. J. Tilanus, P. de Vicente, M. Wielgus, J. A. Zensus, G.-Y. Zhao

(Submitted on 18 Jan 2019) > astro-ph > arXiv:1901.06226

The person the media is celebrating occurs at the 15th position in the list of author names, which are not in alphabetical order. It is fake news for the mainstream media to thus promote her as the face of the project over the rest of the team, including other female scientists, especially when eight ground-based radio telescopes known collectively as the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) were used. She could not have done all of this by herself, and she never said that she did, and yet that is the impression created by the mainstream media:

The female physicist herself made it clear that this was a team effort, but the media wanted a movie star, making the lame excuse that the public cannot focus on 200 people, so it is all their doing, just for headlines.

 Yet, there were 40 women in the project and nothing has been done to celebrate their achievement in STEM. Thus, we are puzzled as to why this event promoted women in STEM, when so many hard-working women scientists in the team will not get the publicity they deserve. It is all the mainstream media’s fault, and naturally there would be an internet backslash against this, but not along the lines of the promotion of all women scientists, unfortunately.

         Further, the actual photograph is a computer reconstruction,

“Though black holes are compact objects, they are exceptionally massive — the mass of M87's black hole is about 6.5 billion times that of our sun, the National Science Foundation (NSF) said in a statement. Because of this enormous mass, black holes warp spacetime, heating the dust and gas around them to extreme temperatures, according to NSF.

By definition, black holes are invisible, because no light escapes from them. But a prediction made by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity stated that under certain circumstances, an outline of a black hole and its light-swallowing event horizon could be seen, according to representatives of the Haystack Observatory at MIT, which houses one of the EHT telescopes.

"If immersed in a bright region, like a disc of glowing gas, we expect a black hole to create a dark region similar to a shadow," EHT Science Council chair Heino Falcke, a professor of radio astronomy and astroparticle physics at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said in the NSF statement.

The black hole in M87 isn't the closest to Earth, but it's among the biggest, which made it a very promising target for the EHT, Derek Fox, an associate professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University, told Live Science (Fox was not affiliated with the EHT discovery).

In the image, the dark circle represents the "shadow" of the black hole and its boundary, created by the glowing material that surrounds it. However, the colors of the bright ring in the image aren't the actual hues of the gas; rather, they represent a color map chosen by EHT researchers to depict the brightness of the emissions, Fox explained.

"The yellow is the most intense emission, the red is less intense, and then black is little or no emission at all," Fox said. In the optical range, the ring around the black hole would likely appear white, perhaps tinged with blue or red, according to Fox.

"I'd expect it to be more of a whitish glow that is brighter along the crescent, dimmer at the other points, and then black where the black hole is casting its shadow," he said.

So, the orange donut shaped object is not real, but a representation.

         But we (well, Brian) believe that there is a much deeper problem with this. 
The photograph is allegedly of the shadow of a black hole, which the naïve might think is the black hole itself, which is impossible, as the light does not escape. Presumably the singularity where all the laws of physics go out the window, according to Einstein, is hidden inside this. Thus, it is technically incorrect to speak about a photo of a blackhole, for what one has at best is a photo of its shadow. The photo of a person’s shadow is not a photo of the person. But that is what is being pushed by the tribe of physicists, or at least by the media presenting this material.

          Yet, is even this interpretation above correct? The photo is very odd being two-dimensional representation. The gas circle is around the event horizon of the black hole, which is correct. The only problem is that according to General Relativity, the gas should be in a three-dimensional sphere around the event horizon, not conveniently arranged like the rings of Saturn as if it was posing for a family cosmological photo. What we should therefore see is not a black interior region, but rather a sphere of illuminated gas. We should not be seeing an interior dark region at all; there should theoretically be no “shadow.” Here is an account of the event horizon:

 “In general relativity, an event horizon (EH) is a region in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman's terms, it is defined as the shell of "points of no return", i.e., the boundary at which the gravitational pull of a massive object becomes so great as to make escape impossible. An event horizon is most commonly associated with black holes. Light emitted from inside the event horizon can never reach the outside observer, and the outside observer cannot see beyond the event horizon. Moreover, any object approaching the horizon from the observer's side appears to slow down and never quite pass through the horizon, with its image becoming more and more redshifted as time elapses. This means that the wavelength of the light emitted from the object is getting longer as the object moves away from the observer. The travelling object, however, experiences no strange effects and does, in fact, pass through the horizon in a finite amount of proper time.”

Hence, it is impossible to photograph the actual black hole, but only regions of space outside the event horizon. This is therefore no photo of a black hole, which is physically impossible. There is something wrong with the entire concept of the photo. Who knows what is going on here?

Authorised by K. W. Grundy
13 Carsten Court, Happy Valley, SA.



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