Next month, NASA James Webb Space Telescope will undertake an important mission of observing the supermassive black hole in a nearby galaxy called the ‘eye of Sauron’. Know what scientists are trying to find out.
While we still wait for the first images taken by the NASA James Webb Space Telescope, the space observatory is being assigned with a historic task. In July, the Webb telescope will gaze into the ‘Eye of Sauron’. No, we are not giving a Lord of the Rings reference, that is the name of a nearby spiral galaxy, which looks just like the movie symbol. Officially named NGC 4151, the galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its centre. And the seemingly impossible task that NASA telescope has been tasked with is to find out how much the black hole weighs.
The task is not easy as black holes cannot be seen. Their gravitational pull is so strong that even light cannot escape it. And since light does not reflect back, it is impossible to understand its size which is important to estimate any celestial body’s mass. But according to a report by Inverse, this is exactly what NASA intends to do through their brand new space telescope.
Also read: Looking for a smartphone? To check mobile finder click here. NASA James Webb Space Telescope to gaze into the Eye of Sauron
Even as a black hole cannot be seen, astronomers have some tricks up their sleeve. The supermassive black hole in question exerts such a high gravitation pull that the stars in the innermost circle of the NGC 4151 galaxy have been pulled in and continuously revolve around the black hole. The Webb telescope has an instrument called Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRSpec) which can observe and measure the speed at which these stars revolve around the black hole. The faster the stars revolve, the more the mass in the black hole. Using this data, astronomers believe they can calculate its mass.
The task is not easy however. To observe the stars the NASA telescope will have to look past the bright light coming from the black hole’s accretion disk, which covers the background of the stars. Picking out the starlight will be a tough task like this. But scientists are confident that the James Webb Space Telescope has been equipped with instruments which are so sharp that it will not be impossible.