Population: 57,7 million (June 2018 estimate).  Exchange rate: 1 CAD = 10.51 ZAR (15 April 2019).  Official Languages: 11.  Landmass: 1 233 404 km².   GDP Rank: 37 th (2016, World Bank).
Population: 57,7 million (June 2018 estimate).  Exchange rate: 1 CAD = 10.51 ZAR (15 April 2019).  Official Languages: 11.  Landmass: 1 233 404 km².   GDP Rank: 37 th (2016, World Bank).

University of Pretoria astrophysicist part of team involved in capturing first black hole image

11 April 2019

The University of Pretoria's astrophysicist Professor Roger Deane, born in Welkom, was part of the international group of scientists who captured the first image of the black hole which was described as supermassive.

His group worked to develop simulations of the complex, earth-sized telescope used to make this historic discovery.

These simulations attempted to mimic and better understand the data coming from the real instrument, which was made up of antennas across the globe.

These simulations mimic the data coming from the real instrument, which is made up of a number antennae across the globe, mimicking the imagery to help scientists get a better picture of what they are looking at.

According to the university, Prfession Deane started working with the team on the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which captured the image revealed to the world on Wednesday.

Professor Deane was in Brussels for the announcement. In a Skype interview, he told journalists that simulating the entire instrument produced an image of what the black hole should look like.

He added that the simulations would take other aspects into consideration, such as the thermal dynamics around the black hole, the physics of every antenna used to capture the actual image and even empirical data on how the telescopes wobble.

They would then note how that changed the perfect view of the black hole shadow as if the image was taken from a close-up position.

"As with any major physics experiment, one needs to understand the effects that the instrument itself may have on the data.

"In the case of the EHT, we built a simulation package that physically modelled a number of non-desirable effects that prevent one from seeing any sort of black hole shadow feature," Deane said.

"This accurate simulation of the telescope enables astronomers to better understand the real observations, discriminate between theoretical black hole shadow models, and insights into the characteristics and performance of the telescope itself."

Professor Deane explained that the image was only the beginning of their investigation, but that he was still blown away by the actualisation of the image, which is a start to confirming Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.

"I'm just proud and honoured to play my small part in this amazing international team."

Prof. Deane's group will now focus on expanding their simulations to model a case in which light from the black hole may have preferred orientation, performing detailed simulations on new prospective sites, and exploring a range of probabilistic modelling techniques to extract the properties of the black hole shadow.

The vice-chancellor and principal of the university, Professor Tawana Kupe congratulated Deane on his contribution.

"This young scientist is an inspiration to scientists on the African continent. Our staff and students are innovative and creative thinkers who excel in cutting-edge research and this discovery is a great example of what can be achieved if we work together across borders and disciplines."

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