Turkish Chasing Black Holes

Feryal Özel conducting researches on black holes, neutron stars and theoretical astrophysics, is also Chairman of the NASA Astrophysics Committee, NASA Lynx Space Telescope Science and president of the Technical Team and Space Horizon Telescope Science Council and Modeling and Analysis Working Group.



Özel, who was elected as an honorary member of the American Physical Society in 2015 for her successful studies in astrophysics and to the Academy of Sciences membership in 2013, has received the Maria Goeppert Mayer Award from the American Physical Society, the Harvard Radcliffe Institute Scholarship, and the honorary professorship from the Miller Institute of the University of California at Berkeley. Özel, who made her name on the list of “20 Great Ideas” along with the world's most renowned scientists as famous physicist Albert Einstein, mathematician John Nash, was recently awarded the METU Outstanding Service Award.



Professor Dr Feryal Özel made a statement to scientists, who came together under the International Event Horizon Telescope project, which is expected to break new ground in the world of science, about the imaging of the supermassive black hole in the centre of the M87 Galaxy in the constellation of Virgo, 53 million light-years away from Earth.

By stating that she has been working on imaging black holes for 20 years, Özel recalled that at a press conference in April, a team of 200 scientists announced the first black hole photograph they had obtained by virtually connecting 8 telescopes from different points of the world.



Özel said that she also conducted the Chair of the Science Council of the Space Horizon Telescope and the Working Group on Modeling and Analysis, where black holes are modelled.

She stated that the data they received from space in 2017 could be announced only in April 2019 and gave the following information: “The black hole photograph created by combining X-ray data obtained from radio telescopes in different parts of the world was announced to the public in 5 cities of the world with simultaneous press conferences. Scientists want to share their excitement instantly. Of course, we were very happy when we first saw the black hole in August 2018, but until April 2019 we could not say anything to anyone. Because we both had to be sure and prepare the publications. It was hard to keep it secret that we had the first black hole image.



Özel made this statement about the black hole photograph they imaged: “In the middle of the black hole, there is a black void where the light is destroyed; and around the black hole, there is a part where the gases are constantly rotating. Under the effect of gravity, these gases go into the black hole but also some of them turns around. That's why the perimeter of the black hole looks bright. Circumference like bagels, there seems to be a hole in the middle.”

In response to the question about which secret previously unknown in the scientific world was uncovered with the visualization of the black hole, Özel said: “Let's say this is a beginning. After showing that this experiment was successful, of course, there will be much more.”.

Pointing out that black holes are known as the most strange objects in the universe in Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, Özel said:

''We are looking for an answer whether black holes have any special feature or not. From what we have seen so far, there is indeed a volume in which light is lost. The absence of light means that no information can reach us. So black holes create tiny islets independent of the universe. Of course, we can do a wide variety of tests now. We've always been trying to figure out what's happening by looking at the effects of the black hole around it. For the first time, we can see the existence of this event horizon and the disappearance of light with our own eyes. Of course, with this data, we can do many different things.”



While Professor Dr Feryal Özel answered the question as to whether the visualization of black holes would have any effect on daily life, she clarified that the data obtained in the basic science research has a very large reflections on life, for example, the laser has become used in surgery years after the invention, the GPS systems installed on mobile phones also worked through Einstein's General Relativity Law.

Pointing out that the location of the satellites was confirmed by this theory, Özel said, “This theory, which was put forward 100 years ago, makes it easy for people all over the world to find addresses. In other words, the concepts we encounter in basic science eventually affect one's life and technology one day. But even if it does not, people are curious and enjoy exploring. It's a research that comes entirely from the discovery of the human soul.”



Özel made the following evaluations on her studies on the universe:

We as a team are trying to prove that Einstein's theory is incomplete. So the theory explains gravity very well, but there is another theory of physics that we call quantum mechanics used to describe particles, and they don't overlap. There must be another condition one of the theories so that we can find a common point. That's one of the reasons we examine black holes. So in the black holes, we are looking for places around which both the effects of quantum mechanics and gravity can have very strong effects. Therefore it's just the beginning.

After getting the black hole picture, we will do a lot of tests of these laws numerically.

So maybe there's a place where Einstein's theory is missing. If we find that, of course, it will make us very happy. Einstein hated the idea of black holes all his life. How do black holes look like, if they are what the theory predicts, is a very new piece of work. So these are the last 20-year of work. And we are gathering new data day by day.''