This year's black hole photography gets called off due to coronavirus concerns

This year's black hole photography gets called off due to coronavirus concerns
<p>The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration — was designed to capture images of a black hole<br></p>Event Horizon Telescope

  • The Event Horizon Telescope, which captured the first ever photograph of a black hole, has cancelled its planned observations for 2020 amid coronavirus concerns.
  • They originally planned to get more information to improve on the image of the black hole that was released last year.
  • Due to the limited window of time when black hole can be observed, further research will only take place in March 2021.
The annual event which produced the first ever photograph of a black hole has been cancelled. The Event Horizon Telescope — a global network of telescopes — announced that the observations planned for March 2020 have been called off. Individual telescopes within the network were already shutting down due to coronavirus concerns.

“It is heartbreaking that, for the second year in a row, circumstances beyond our control have forced cancellation of our observing campaign,” said the organisation.

This year's black hole photography gets called off due to coronavirus concerns
First ever photograph of a black holeNASA

This year’s event was going to improve on the first set of results that were released last year. Due to weather conditions and celestial mechanics, the observations can only occur during late March or early April.

Since it’s unlikely that the pandemic will end by then, Event Horizon Telescope believes that they will now have to wait till March 2021 to try again.


Research hits a speed bump
Other observatories around the world are also bearing the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak. Only a handful of telescopes are completely robotic, which means most still need a human to function.

For instance, the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, for example, initially put a remote contingency plan in place for its Magellan telescopes. However, on March 17, it ceased operations for at least the next two weeks.

Actually shutting down a telescope is a rare event, but that’s how severe the threat from coronavirus has become, according to Emily Levesque — an astronomer at the University of Washington.

Two years in a row
The first photograph of the supermassive black hole at the center of M-87 was collated from data collected back in 2017. The Event Horizon Telescope was able to obtain some new data in 2018, but was cancelled the following year due to ‘circumstances beyond their control’.

However, the scientists won’t be sitting idle. "We will now devote our full concentration to completion of scientific publications from the 2017 data and dive into the analysis of data obtained with the enhanced EHT array in 2018," said the organisation.

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