Spain takes leading role in black hole study
The Ministry of Public Works, through the National Geographic Institute, took part in an international planetary radio-telescope project to capture the first image of a black hole.
In April 2017, radio-telescopes around the world viewed the galaxy M87 simultaneously and in a coordinated fashion, to capture an image of the shadow of the super-massive black hole contained therein. This is the first image of this type, never before captured, and is one more extraordinarily visual demonstration of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
After two years analysing the data, new observations show the distribution of matter in the environment close to the black hole where light cannot escape from.
These observations have been made with a set of radio-telescopes around the world with a frequency of 230 GHz. These include the 30-metre long Spanish radio-telescope of the Institute of Millimetre Radio-astronomy (Spanish acronym: IRAM) located in Granada. IRAM is a Spanish-French-German institute whose members include the National Geographic Institute, the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the Max-Planck Gesellschaft. Cutting-edge technology has been used to overcome scientific challenges in terms of analysis and organisation. The research article includes the participation of astronomers from throughout the world, including an IGN astronomer whose work has been fundamental in achieving this result.
Spain is a great technology powerhouse in radio-astronomy since it has two extraordinarily competitive and complementary radio-telescopes, the IGN 40-metre radio-telescope in Yebes, Guadalajara, which can observe between 2 and 100 GHz and the IRAM 30-metre radio-telescope that can observe between 70 and 320 GHz.
The IGN has invested more than 20 million euros over the last decade in providing the 40-metre radio-telescope in Yebes with cutting-edge technology. Furthermore, the Spanish radio-astronomy community is tremendously dynamic and competent and is distributed among different institutions, such as the IGN, the CSIC and several universities.