Sagittarius A *: 1st photo of a black hole in the Milky Way in images

EHT Collaboration created possible images of Sagittarius A * using ray tracking, which predicts what black holes look like based on Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

(Image Credit: Ben Prater / EHT Theory Working Group / Chi-Kwan Chan)

To understand the bizarre environmental physics of Sgr A *, the imaging team used tools and models to measure the properties that were observed. They have also developed simpler models, “which we can compare directly to EHT data,” Harvard and Smithsonian astrophysicists Michael Johnson told reporters after the black hole image was announced on May 12, 2022.

“It’s a different approach to depiction,” Johnson said. “This gives us a different perspective and allows us to understand the systematic biases of both methods, because these simple models are easier to constrain with very limited data.”

There were two ways they worked with models. The first was to split the data over time and match snapshots of the black hole in action to ensure that the measurements were not “contaminated” by the variability in its environment. This was combined into one, average model.

The second model seeks to hold all data at once. “Here we are approaching the average image structure, along with an additional source of variable noise that is on top of that average,” Johnson said. “This procedure is very similar to what we did to make the images. By combining all these different approaches, we were able to accurately characterize the properties of the ring.”

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