Brazilian astronomer Lia Medeiros, 31, felt a mixture of pride and relief upon seeing the sharpest image ever recorded on a Black hole supermassive mass located in the center of the Milky Way. The unprecedented record is the Sagittarius A*.
“We’ve been working on this for a very, very long time,” Lia says in a phone interview with Tilt. She is the only Brazilian to be part of this project. “For the past year and a half, pretty much every hour of my life has been dedicated to this. It’s a bit of a relief to finally be able to share this result.”
The researcher is a member of the EHT (Event Horizon Telescope), an international collaboration which revealed the unpublished image of the black hole last week. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the IAS (Institute for Advanced Study) in New Jersey, thanks to a grant from the US National Science Foundation.
Pride, she says, comes from the certainty of having made the right career choice. “Over 100 years of theoretical work to predict an image, and when it comes out, it’s exactly what was predicted. It’s amazing! I’m so proud not only of our team, but of humanity as a whole. together. Science works!”
The participation of the Brazilian
Created six years ago, the ISE aims to closely study two black holes: Sagittarius A* It’s the M87who is at the center of the galaxy Messier 87,500 quintillion kilometers from Earth – or 53 million light-years – and who was “photographed” in 2019.
Lia collaborates with the ISE since the beginning of the project, and today, she is the youngest woman to carry out a study (which consists in testing the gravitational physics of the black hole) on the organ. The group is made up of more than 300 scientists and 60 institutions, including laboratories and universities, in 20 countries.
These collaborators are divided into study groups, each responsible for an aspect of the observed black holes. In addition to last week’s image, the EHT has also published six scientific papers detailing these groups’ findings regarding Sagittarius A*.
In short, the role of the Brazilian was to test the predictions of Albert Einstein made in her general relativity theorypublished in 1915.
“I test Einstein’s theory in the same building where he worked,” says Lia, referring to his lab at IAS, where the German physicist worked in the last years of his life, until his death. in 1955.
Einstein was right
In his theory of general relativity, Einstein predicted with mathematical formulas the behavior of gravity around an object of extreme mass – an object that, years later, scientists would identify as black holes.
With Sagittarius A*, Lia tested these formulas in extreme conditions: by observing a supermassive black hole far from the solar system.
The image recorded by the EHT is so clear that it allowed the researcher’s team to test the predictions made by Einstein with 500 times more accuracy than previous studies. According to Lia, all the tests were “perfectly confirmed”.
“Literally, a mathematical equation predicted the existence of this object, and 100 years later we saw the image of this object. And the image is exactly what we expected. It’s amazing!” , he added.
Cheese bread and math
Although she has lived in several countries, accompanying her father, professor of aeronautical engineering at the University of São Paulo (USP), Lia is proud of her Brazilian roots. On the food side, he does not deny his love for cheese bread: “I always eat it, everywhere in the world”. She lived in Belo Horizonte (MG) for four years.
In this coming and going around the world, Lia has found in science — and more specifically in mathematics — a rare sense of constancy. “The calculation is the same in all countries.”
“Ever since I was a child, mathematics seemed to me to be a fundamental truth. I realized that any effort I made to understand mathematics would be worth it for the rest of my life. I could take it anywhere .” Lia Medeiros, pHd.
In addition to allowing us to better understand the universe around us, for Lia, the advances of recent days point to an even more exciting future. What will we do with these discoveries? Only future generations will know.
“Einstein did not know that general relativity would allow the creation of GPS systems that we use today,” he says. “But he was curious to understand how gravity works. We try to answer questions that have never been answered before. We do this out of curiosity, but knowing that the effects on everyday human life can be incredible, even if difficult to predict.”