UM astronomer publishes black hole research paper

PETALING JAYA: An astronomer from Universiti Malaya (UM) is the first author to publish data from captured images of the closest look at a violent jet emitted by a supermassive black hole.

Dr Juan Carlos Algaba said the data shows that astronomers could put constraints to test the theory of relativity on black holes.

“We can also investigate the radiation produced from the jet and whether this could be the origin of cosmic rays – particles a million times more energetic than what we can produce, ” he said in an interview yesterday.Algaba, from the university’s Faculty of Science Radio Cosmology Laboratory, was one of the main coordinators for the paper.

The paper was published yesterday in the scientific journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

He was also part of the international team that captured the world’s first images of a black hole.

A statement by the Event Horizon Telescope and Chandra Press Office on behalf of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), said the data were collected by a team of 760 scientists and engineers from nearly 200 institutions, across 32 countries.

Observatories used were funded by agencies and institutions around the world and the observations started from the end of March 2017 to the middle of April 2017, it added.

The first results, the statement read, show that the intensity of the light produced by material around M87’s supermassive black hole was the lowest that had ever been seen.

“This produced ideal conditions for viewing the ‘shadow’ of the black hole, as well as being able to isolate the light from regions close to the event horizon from those tens of thousands of light-years away from the black hole, ” it added.

Algaba said to being credited as the first author to publish the data was an overwhelming feeling.

“There were many in the collaboration who have made great and amazing contributions, and I’m just one of them.

“So I would prefer to think that there are ‘many first authors’ who did the core of the work.

“But it is great to show the people what can be achieved and I think it is a great opportunity to show locals what can be achieved in Malaysia, ” he added.

This discovery, he believes, will motivate generations of young people and inspire the future of the country.

“A common comment I hear is that people are unaware of the research that is carried out in the country and this discourages them.

“It may also seem that if you want to be a good researcher, you have to move to globally recognised institutions, but this is not the case, ” he said.

Algaba, a senior lecturer who is from Spain, said Malaysians should not underestimate the country’s or institutions’ achievements, adding that it’s important to have motivation, courage and dedication.

“These discoveries are waking people up to the fact that not living in a developed country should not be an excuse to stop them from pursuing their dreams.

“Other countries are not entitled to look down on Malaysia, because we can have the same kind of world-class research.

“We can boost our spirits, and through research, we can lead the country to new frontiers.

“Whatever the dream is, show the entire world we can do it, that Malaysia can do it, ” he added.