May 6 (UPI) -- Earlier this year, scientists captured the first up-close image of a black hole. Now, researchers are working on plans to produce even sharper images of the cosmic phenomena.
Scientists published their plans for acquiring better black hole images this week in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. The plans involve the deployment of two or three coordinated orbital radio telescopes.
To showcase the power of their planned constellation of observatories, dubbed the Event Horizon Imager, researchers developed a model to simulate the telescopes' image-making abilities.
"There are lots of advantages to using satellites instead of permanent radio telescopes on Earth, as with the Event Horizon Telescope," Freek Roelofs, a PhD candidate at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said in a news release. "In space, you can make observations at higher radio frequencies, because the frequencies from Earth are filtered out by the atmosphere."
"The distances between the telescopes in space are also larger," Roelofs said. "This allows us to take a big step forward. We would be able to take images with a resolution more than five times what is possible with the EHT."
EHT was used to produce the first-of-their-kind black hole images published earlier this year. While groundbreaking, the images produced by EHT aren't sharp enough to test Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.
According to the newly published paper, a space-based constellation of black-hole-hunting radio telescopes would be able to measure difference in the behavior of real black holes and the characteristics predicted by Einstein's theory.
To make the astronomers' plans a reality, engineers will have to overcome some technical challenges.
"The concept demands that you must be able to ascertain the position and speed of the satellites very accurately," said Volodymyr Kudriashov, researcher at the Radboud Radio Lab. "But we really believe that the project is feasible."
Initially, scientists expect the EHI telescopes to function independently of the EHT observatories, but the two systems could be eventually combined.
"Using a hybrid like this could provide the possibility of creating moving images of a black hole, and you might be able to observe even more and also weaker sources," said Heino Falcke, a professor of radio astronomy at Radboud.