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Astronomers snap first-ever image of supermassive black hole Sagitarrius A*

The image reveals a glowing, donut-shaped ring at the Milky Way’s heart

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Written by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office

Black holes are invisible by nature. Their pull is inescapable, forever trapping any light that falls into their gravitational abyss. But just beyond a black hole’s point of no return, light persists, and its patterns, like a photo negative, can reveal a black hole’s lurking presence.

Now an international team of astronomers, including researchers at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, has captured the light around our own supermassive black hole, revealing for the first time, an image of Sagitarrius A* (Sgr A*, pronounced ‘sadge-ay-star’), the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy. 

The image was created by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — a global network of radio telescopes whose movements are choreographed so they function as one virtual, planet-sized telescope. The researchers focused the EHT array on the center of our galaxy, 27,000 light years from Earth, cutting through our planet’s atmosphere and the turbulent plasma beyond our solar system.

The resulting image reveals SgrA* for the first time, in the form of a glowing, donut-shaped ring of light. This ring structure lies just outside the event horizon, or the point beyond which light cannot escape, and is the result of light being bent by the black hole’s enormous gravity. The bright ring encircles a dark center, described as the black hole’s “shadow.”

The ring’s white-hot plasma is estimated to be 10 billion Kelvin, or 18 billion degrees Fahrenheit. Judging from the ring’s dimensions, SgrA* is roughly 4 million times the mass of the sun and incredibly compact, with a size that could fit within the orbit of Venus.

The image is the first visual confirmation that a black hole indeed exists at the center of our galaxy. Astronomers previously have observed stars circling around an invisible, massive, and extremely dense object — all signs pointing to a supermassive black hole. The image revealed today provides the first visual evidence that the object is a black hole, with dimensions that agree with predictions based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

“It is notoriously difficult to reconstruct images from a widely dispersed array like the EHT, and both rigor and ingenuity have been required to properly understand and quantify uncertainties,” says Colin Lonsdale, director of MIT’s Haystack Observatory. “The result is a milestone in our understanding of black holes in general and the one at the center of our galaxy in particular.”

The image and accompanying analyses are presented today in a number of papers appearing in a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The findings are the result of work by more than 300 researchers from 80 institutions, including MIT, which together make up the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.

Chasing a black hole’s tail

The new image of SgrA* follows the first-ever image of a black hole, which was obtained by the EHT in 2019. That groundbreaking image was of M87*, the supermassive black hole at the center of Messier 87, a galaxy located 53 million light years from Earth.

M87* is a goliath compared to SgrA*, with a mass of 6.5 billion suns (more than 1,000 times heavier than our own black hole), and a size that could easily swallow the entire solar system. And yet the image of M87* reveals a bright ring structure, much like SgrA*. The similarity between the two images confirms another prediction of general relativity: that all black holes are alike, no matter their size.

“We now have a consistent image that looks like general relativity is working on both ends of supermassive black holes,” says EHT collaboration member Kazunori Akiyama, a research scientist at MIT’s Haystack Observatory.

The images of both black holes are based on data taken by the EHT of the respective sources in 2017. However, it took far more time and effort to bring SgrA* into focus, due to its smaller size and its location within our own galaxy.

Astronomers suspect that hot gas circles both black holes at the same velocity, close to the speed of light. As SgrA* is 1,500 times smaller than M87*, its speeding light is much harder to resolve. (Similarly, it’s harder to photograph a dog chasing its tail than one running at the same speed around a large park.)

The fact that SgrA* lies in our own galaxy also presented an imaging challenge. M87* sits in a galaxy that is offset from our own, making it easier to see. In contrast, SgrA* lies at the center of our own galactic plane, which hosts pockets of heated gas, or turbulent plasma, that can distort any emissions from the black hole that reach the Earth.

“It’s like trying to see through a jet engine’s blowing warm air,” Akiyama says. “It was very complicated, and that was why this image took longer to resolve.”

Jumping data

To capture a clear image of SgrA*, astronomers coordinated eight radio observatories around the world to act as one virtual telescope, which they pointed at the center of the Milky Way over several days in April 2017. Each observatory recorded incoming light data using high-speed recorders developed at Haystack Observatory. These recorders were designed to process an enormous amount of data at rates of 4 gigabytes per second.

After collecting a total of 5 petabytes of data, encompassing observations of both SgrA* and M87*, hard drives full of recorded data were shipped, half to Haystack, and the other half to Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany. Both locations house correlators — massive supercomputers that worked to “correlate” the data, comparing the data streams between different observatories, and converting that data into signals that a planet-sized telescope would see.

They then calibrated the data — a meticulous process of weeding out noise from sources such as instrumentation effects and the Earth’s own atmosphere, to effectively focus the virtual telescope’s “mirror” on signals specific to SgrA*.

Then imaging teams took on the task of translating the signals into a representative image of the black hole — a far trickier challenge than imaging M87*, which was a larger, steadier source, changing very little over several days.

“SgrA* is changing over minutes, so the data is jumping all over the place,” says EHT collaboration member Vincent Fish, a research scientist at Haystack. “That’s the fundamental challenge in imaging this black hole.”

Akiyama, who led both the EHT’s calibration and imaging teams, developed a new algorithm to pair with those used to image M87*. The researchers fed data into each algorithm to generate thousands of images of the black hole. They averaged these images to generate one main image, which revealed SgrA* as a glowing, ring-like structure.

In coming years, the scientists expect to collect more data of SgrA* and other black holes as the EHT expands, adding more telescopes to its virtual array.

“The techniques developed for Sgr A* pave the way for spectacular EHT images and science to come, as the telescope array is expanded and refined,” Lonsdale says.

“The next step is, can we get sharper images of this ring?” Akiyama says. “Now we can only see the brightest features. We want to also capture fainter substructures. Then we expect to see something more detailed, and different from that first donut.”

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NMIMS SBM Offers MBA (Part-Time) Program for Working Executives

The program focuses on providing a holistic education to enhance their employability

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Start your professional learning journey now with the best-in-class MBA (Part-Time) program with the most sought-after prestigious NMIMS, School of Business Management, featured in the top 100 global B-schools as per Financial Times MiM 2022 ranking. A highly respected business school in India with a legacy of 41 years and a prestigious faculty announces admissions open for their MBA (Part-Time) program at their Mumbai campus.

This program offers an opportunity for working executives to acquire a high-end compact management qualification through rigorous and qualitative in-class learning and practical exposure to industry expertise. The program focuses on providing a holistic education to enhance their employability, exposing working executives to contemporary trends and practices in management. It also provides excellent academic resources coupled with industry best practices to boost the managerial competence of executives.

NMIMS SBM MBA (Part-Time) is accredited by Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) for working executives who want to enhance their skills and advance their careers. NMIMS has world-class pedagogy to provide students with a comprehensive and engaging learning experience. NMIMS SBM has a team of experts with extensive experience in the business world. The program structure is upto 40% hybrid and 60% in the classroom, whereas Bloomberg Certification Program will help students use financial analysis tools more efficiently. 

“The program is specifically meant for executives who have spent quality time in the industry and have adequate exposure to managerial roles and responsibilities. The two-year MBA (Part-Time) program will offer an opportunity for participants to hone their managerial skills and enable them to contribute better to their decision-making. It has been designed to empower students with a well-planned schedule that allows for a balance between study and work,” said Dr. Prashant Mishra, Dean School of Business Management.

Dr. Pradeep Pai, Program Chairperson, MBA (Part-Time), School of Business Management, said, “NMIMS SBM is proud to offer this innovative program to working professionals who wish to take the next step in their careers. We believe that this program will be a preferred executive education program for working professionals seeking to upgrade their qualifications by acquiring a widely acclaimed MBA degree.”

The MBA (Part-Time) program goes beyond traditional education by providing learners value-added workshops and industry connections. Our curriculum is regularly updated to ensure students receive the most current knowledge. The program helps them gain a practical and theoretical understanding of the industry and creates a network of professionals for them as they progress.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • 50% in Graduation from a recognized University in any discipline. (Distance/Part time/Full time)
  • Minimum 3 years of work experience in an executive or supervisory capacity or self-employed after graduation & up to the date of written test/personal interview.
  • The work experience should be full-time experience and should NOT include internships, projects, training periods, trainee (management, engineering), etc.

Selection Process:

Written Test conducted for MBA (Part-Time) by NMIMS OR Candidates with GMAT score of 600 and above (GMAT score of last 5 years up to the closure of registrations will be considered) OR Candidates with a score of 200 and above in NMAT by GMAC examinations for 2020 admission AND Personal Interview

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eSecForte visited Northeast to strengthen Industry-Academia Interface for Achieving Effective Cybersecurity Prospects  

The team also visited the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Manipur and interacted with students on the topic of Digital Forensics Challenges and career options

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In an effort to create a holistic ecosystem for cybersecurity in the country, the team from eSecForte led by Lt Col (Dr.) Santosh Khadsare  (Retd), VP Digital Forensics  & Incident Response  visited the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NEILT), Kohima and held discussions with the director of the institute, L. Lanuwabang. The deliberations were focused on enlarging the gambit of cybersecurity especially digital forensics in the country and how eSecForte and NEILT can come together to contribute effectively in this regard. 

The team also visited the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Manipur and interacted with students on the topic of Digital Forensics Challenges and career options. The discussion entailed how the use of digital forensics can prove instrumental in bringing the perpetrators of cybercrimes to the book. The various challenges related to the implementation of tools and methodologies of digital forensics were also part of the very constructive dialogue that was held between our team and enthusiastic students. 

The team lead had a very fruitful discussion with Dr Krishnan Bhaskar, Director, IIIT, Imphal and discussed how the Industry-Academia interface can do wonders in the field of cybersecurity and digital forensics. Specifically, detailed deliberations were held on devising exchange mechanisms and collaborative opportunities so that industry and academics can come together and lead to the creation of a self-sustainable ecosystem in the field of cybersecurity. Such development will ensure that cases related to the cybercrimes are dealt swiftly and lead to desired outcomes in terms of ensuring justice and well-being for all participating stakeholders. 

In the next leg of the reaching out journey, eSecForte’s team paid a visit to the National Forensic Science University (NFSU), Imphal campus and exchanged ideas with the campus coordinator on the latest trends and developments in the field of digital forensics. Apprising the importance of digital forensics to investigating officers, Lt Col (Dr.) Santosh Khadsare  (Retd), VP DFIR interacted with more than 400 trainees of the North Eastern Police Academy (NEPA), Shillong. These aspirants were thoroughly apprised of the importance of digital forensics and its utility in cracking cases related to cyberfrauds, cyberbullying, and other allied crimes associated with cyberspace. Case studies were discussed on how to handle digital evidence at the crime scenes with utmost care so that trace evidence won’t get lost in the logistical procedures and processes. The team showcased flagship products of eSecForte, Digital Forensic workstations and Faraday bags and informed them of the utility of these offerings built under India’s ambitious MAKE IN INDIA (MII) project. 

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Roots Collegium signs World Chess Champion Koneru Humpy as Brand Ambassador

Chairman, Sri. B.P.Padala announces Koneru Humpy as the Brand Ambassador of Roots Collegium educational institutions

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  • Humpy will be the face of its upcoming brand-related undertakings

Celebrating its 30 years’ legacy in imparting holistic education, Roots Collegium, a well-known educational institution in Hyderabad has today announced World Chess Champion Koneru Humpy as its Brand Ambassador. The appointment of Ms. Koneru Humpy is set to boost the brand image of Roots Collegium amplifying the institution’s philosophy in making its students achieve global exposure.

With the signing up of world chess champion Koneru Humpy as its Brand Ambassador, Roots Collegium will be exploring untapped areas of new-age innovations and add them to its list of achievements in the last 30 years. The fast expanding Roots Collegium, started in 1991, offers intermediate courses and almost all the streams of Bachelor’s degrees. Roots collegium is providing a wide range of courses like BBA, BBA (Business Analytics, B.Com (General, computers, sales), BA (Mass Communication, Psychology, and modern languages), and B.Sc. (Data Analysis). The college provides a variety of courses in design, film and media, visual arts, hotel management, culinary arts, and also many other certificate courses.

Reacting to her appointment, Koneru Humpy said “It is my pleasure to be the brand ambassador of Roots Collegium. I thank Sri. BP Padala gaaru for the honour. Roots Collegium as an institution has been offering the best educational facilities for its students for the last 30 years. Roots and I share a similar journey as we both have started our journey’s 30 years back. We both have same passion, integrity and ethics. That’s the special part about Roots Collegium, to which I instantly related to. And now we are ready to travel together.  As an ambassador, I look forward to contributing my committed services to the college and helping them grow in stature. I will take part in each and every event of the college and would like to share my thoughts and way-forward ideas in all its initiatives. Once again I want to thank all the staff and management for choosing me as a brand ambassador.”

Koneru Humpy is the FIDE Women’s rapid chess champion of 2019. She became the youngest woman to achieve the title of a Grandmaster back in 2002 at the age of 15. Her association will be an added feather to the cap of Roots Collegium’s growing achievements and a historic moment in its journey. 

The Chairman of Roots Collegium, Sri. B P Padala said “It’s our honour to have such a young and dynamic chess champion, Koneru Humpy as our brand ambassador. I wish the students of Roots Collegium will be motivated by such an inspiring champion who has come across a lot to be in this position today. I have no doubt that with her determination and strong belief, she become a world champion. I hope every student will inculcate the habit of not giving up and fighting for what they want, from her. She will be a role model for each and every student of our institution. I thank Koneru Humpy for accepting this position and people like her will definitely help bring change in society.”

The students of Roots Collegium from different places in Hyderabad city are excited and look forward to listen to the life-changing stories from Koneru Humpy in the future. 

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