Attempting the Impossible: Taking the First Picture of a Black Hole

31 March, 2017

ALMA Kids Publication


The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) joins for the first time the Global mm-VLBI Array (GMVA) and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), Earth-sized virtual observatories, which are made possible by an international collaboration of radio telescopes. One of the main drivers of this global collaboration is to study in detail the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way. The GMVA will derive the properties of the accretion and outflow in the immediate surroundings of the Galactic Center, while the EHT will aim at imaging, for the very first time, the shadow of the black hole’s event horizon.

The impressive line-up of participating telescopes stretch across the globe, from the South Pole to Europe to Hawaii, and, of course, Chile. ALMA with its 66 antennas, state-of-the-art receivers, its excellent site and southern location make it the largest and most sensitive, as well as a strategic component of both the GMVA and EHT. The observations will be done with the GMVA from April 1 to April 4, 2017, and with the EHT from April 5 to April 14, 2017.

The outcome of these observations is eagerly awaited by the community as its scientific potential is incredibly exciting. To help understand better these forthcoming observations, ALMA and its partners have launched a blog series to explain what the GMVA and EHT projects are and the science behind them. The series will take you along an astronomical journey, providing insight into how cutting-edge research is done, describe the associated risks, and provide answers to questions such as: How do radiotelescopes see the Universe? Why are black holes so interesting? What do we know about the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way?

The first installment explains the GMVA and EHT projects in more detail and what they may see. You can read it here.

Additional information

ALMA is a partnership of ESO (representing its member states), NSF (USA) and NINS (Japan), together with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of South Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ.