Brazilian astronomer Lia Medeiros, 31, felt a mixture of pride and relief when she saw the clearest image ever recorded of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The unprecedented record is the bow A*.
“We’ve been working on this for a very long time,” Leah says in a phone interview. tilt. She is the only Brazilian who participated in this project. “For the past year and a half, almost every hour of my life has been focused on this. It’s a relief to finally be able to share this result.”
The researcher is a member of the EHT (Event Horizon Telescope), an international collaboration that last week revealed an unprecedented image of a black hole. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at IAS (Institute for Advanced Study) in New Jersey, with a grant from the US National Science Foundation.
Pride, she says, comes from the certainty of making the right career decision. “More than 100 years of theoretical work to predict an image, and when it appears, that’s exactly what was predicted. It’s amazing! I’m so proud not only of our team, but of humanity as a whole. Science works!”
Formed six years ago, the EHT It aims to study two black holes closely: Sagittarius The* it’s the Messier 87Which is located in the center of the galaxy messiah 87,500 million kilometers from Earth – or 53 million light-years away – which was “photographed” in 2019.
Read cooperate with EHT Since the beginning of the project, she is today the youngest woman to lead a study (which includes testing the gravitational physics of a black hole) on the organ. The group consists of more than 300 scientists and 60 institutions, including laboratories and universities, spread in 20 countries.
These collaborators are divided into study groups, each of which is responsible for an aspect of the observed black holes. Along with last week’s photo, the EHT also published six scientific papers detailing these groups’ findings regarding Sagittarius A*.
In short, the Brazilian’s role was to test Albert Einstein’s predictions made in his theory of general relativity, published in 1915.
“I am testing Einstein’s theory in the same building where he was working,” says Leah, referring to his laboratory at the 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 predicts with mathematical formulas the behavior of gravity around an object of maximum mass — an object that, years later, scientists identified as black holes.
With Sagittarius A*, Lia tested these formulas under extreme conditions: observing a supermassive black hole and far from the solar system.
The image recorded by the EHT is so sharp that it allowed the researcher’s team to test Einstein’s predictions with 500 times more accuracy than previous studies. According to Leah, all tests have been “completely confirmed”.
He added, “A mathematical equation literally predicted the existence of this thing, and 100 years later we saw the image of this thing. And the image is exactly what we expected. It’s amazing!”
Cheese bread and math
Although she has lived in several countries, accompanied by her father, a professor in the Aeronautical Engineering course at the University of São Paulo (USP), Lea is proud of her Brazilian roots. When it comes to food, he doesn’t deny his love for cheese bread: “I always eat it anywhere in the world.” She has lived in Belo Horizonte (MG) for four years.
In this coming and going around the world, Leah finds in science – and more precisely in mathematics – a rare sense of fortitude. “The mathematics is the same in every country.”
“Since I was a child, math seemed like a fundamental truth to me. I knew that any effort I put into understanding math would be worth it for the rest of my life. I could take it anywhere.” Lea Medeiros, Ph.D.
In addition to allowing us to better understand the universe around us, for Lia, the developments of the past few days point to an even more exciting future. What are we going to do with these results? Only future generations will know.
“Einstein did not know that general relativity would allow the GPS systems we use today to be created,” he says. “But he was curious to understand how gravity works. We’re trying to answer questions that haven’t been answered before. We’re doing it out of curiosity, but knowing that the effects on people’s daily lives can be amazing, even if they are. It’s hard to guess” .