The Event Horizon Telescope is back to work this week for a tour of exotic cosmic objects


The world-wide network of observatories most famous for creating the first image of a black hole gets back to work.

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is preparing for its 2022 campaign, which includes seven days of remote observations. The telescope array will focus on spectacular objects around the universe, including black holes, galaxies and quasars, which are super bright objects with black holes in the middle.

As the coalition did last year, EHT will rely on remote viewing techniques given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The observing window extends from Tuesday, March 15 to March 28 to accommodate bad weather or other issues, EHT Board Secretary Eduardo Ros told in an email. Ros is also the Scientific Coordinator of the Department of Radio Astronomy at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.

Related: Eureka! Scientists photograph a black hole for the first time

The eight facilities that collected the observations that went into the first image of the black hole are all joining this year’s campaign; three new facilities are also taking part in the observations. The additional partners will provide scientists with data on more types of light than they had for the famous image released in 2019, Ros said.

The 11 observatories are spread around the world, from Greenland to Antarctica and from Hawaii to France. Given the weather conditions at each of the sites, the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration only attempts observations in March and April.

Artist’s rendering of a quasar. (Image credit: NASA/ESA)

According to Ros, this year’s targets include both the black hole at the center of the galaxy Messier 87, which was the subject of the famous ring image released in 2019, and Sagittarius A*, which is the dynamic black hole at the center of ours. Milky Way galaxy about 25,000 light-years from Earth.

The EHT allocated smaller time slices to observe half a dozen other black holes and quasars, ranging up to nearly 7 billion light-years from Earth, Ros said.

The Event Horizon Telescope, a planetary-scale network of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration, captured this image of the supermassive black hole and its shadow that sits at the center of the galaxy M87. (Image credit: EHT Collaboration)

This year’s campaign marks the second consecutive year of observations after a two-year hiatus for the Event Horizon Telescope. “2019 was canceled for operational reasons, and 2020 was canceled due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ros said.

This year, the telescope network will again rely on remote support for observing sites using what Ros called “a similar approach” to last year’s procedure.

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