We Could Be Just Days Away From Seeing the First-Ever Photo of a Black Hole

An artist's rendering of a growing supermassive black hole
An artist's rendering of a growing supermassive black hole
NASA/CXC/M.Weiss, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Lots of people have created simulations and illustrations of black holes based on what is currently known about these incredibly dense objects, but to date, the public has never seen an actual picture of one.

As NBC News reports, that could change next Wednesday, when a team of international scientists releases the “groundbreaking result” of a project that has set its sights on capturing the first image of a black hole. Six simultaneous press conferences will be held around the world, and the U.S. announcement in Washington, D.C. will be livestreamed starting at 9 a.m. on April 10.

The reason black holes are so hard to see is because no light can escape from them. However, scientists know they exist because of the gravitational pull they exert on nearby objects, including stars and gas. The latest endeavor to observe a black hole, dubbed the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, has built a “virtual Earth-sized telescope” by creating a network of eight radio observatories around the world.

It is believed that the announcement will concern a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way called Sagittarius A* (pronounced “Sagittarius A-star”). If scientists are successful in capturing an image of the distant black hole, it would be the equivalent of “standing in New York and counting the individual dimples on a golf ball in Los Angeles,” according to an EHT video.

As for what Sagittarius A* might look like, that remains to be seen. “We might see a crescent, brightened on one side—or a bipolar, jet-like structure,” Dan Marrone, an experimental astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, told Mental Floss in 2017. “We honestly don’t know.”

To livestream the press conference on Wednesday, visit the National Science Foundation's website.

[h/t NBC]

This Cool T-Shirt Shows Every Object Brought on the Apollo 11 Mission

Fringe Focus
Fringe Focus

NASA launched the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969, ending the space race and beginning a new era of international space exploration. Just in time for the mission's 50th anniversary this year, Fringe Focus is selling a t-shirt that displays every item the Apollo 11 astronauts brought with them to the Moon.

The design, by artist Rob Loukotka, features some of the iconic objects from the mission, such as a space suit and helmet, as well as the cargo that never made it to primetime. Detailed illustrations of freeze-dried meals, toiletries, and maintenance kits are included on the shirt. The artist looked at 200 objects and chose to represent some similar items with one drawing, ending up with 69 pictures in total.

The unisex shirt is made from lightweight cotton, and comes in seven sizes ranging from small to 4XL. It's available in black heather or heather midnight navy for $29.

If you really like the design, the artwork is available in other forms. The same illustration has also been made into poster with captions indicating which pictures represent multiple items of a similar nature.

The International Space Station Will Start Accepting Visitors … For $58 Million

iStock/forplayday
iStock/forplayday

If you've ever wanted to visit the International Space Station, your chance is coming soon—assuming you have a few million set aside. Recently, NASA announced that this orbiting outpost will be open to private citizens starting in 2020.

However, it won't be cheap. According to The Denver Post, each trip could last up to 30 days, and NASA estimates the cost of a round trip at $58 million, as well as an additional $35,000 charge per night. And, it's not just for kicks—you need to have a mission of your own. The space agency is allowing companies that want to conduct commercial or marketing work to send employees to the ISS as long as they meet one of the three requirements:

  • require the unique microgravity environment to enable manufacturing, production, or development of a commercial application;
  • have a connection to NASA's mission; or
  • support the development of a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy

The space station had a visitor back in 2001—Californian businessman Dennis Titobecame history's first space tourist when he spent a week aboard the ISS with two Russian cosmonauts who took him out there on a Russian spacecraft—but this would be a first for NASA. The agency was opposed to training and flying with Tito back in 2001; at the time, NASA administrator Daniel Goldin said, "Space is dangerous. It's not a joyride. Space is not about egos."

Now, NASA is ready to open the shuttle doors to private citizens. In addition to U.S. citizens, those from other countries are eligible to travel as long as they fly on a U.S.-operated rocket. These lucky private astronauts will have to go through the same medical checks, physical training, and certification procedures as crew members before traveling—a process that could take up to two years.

Along with this exciting news, NASA has bigger plans in mind. They are considering the possibility of a private sector company eventually taking control of the station and paying for its expensive upkeep. NASA has yet to announce when this transition would take place, but said in a statement that the "ultimate goal in low-Earth orbit is to partner with industry to achieve a strong ecosystem in which NASA is one of many customers purchasing services and capabilities at lower cost."

In addition, they hope that the revenue will assist in the operational costs for NASA's Artemis program, which is focused on sending astronauts—including the first woman—to the Moon by 2024.

[h/t The Denver Post]

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