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Indiana University–led Jetstream enables new black hole research

The Event Horizon Telescope team developed workflows on the Jetstream system that led to capturing an image of Sagittarius A*

News and events Research and discovery Jun 27, 2022

At the center of our galaxy sits a supermassive black hole dubbed Sagittarius A*. And although scientists were aware of the black hole, it wasn’t until May 12, 2022, that astronomers on the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team released the first image of Sagittarius A*. This was preceded in 2019 by the release of the first ever image of any black hole—M87*, which sits at the center of the galaxy Messier 87. Although Sagittarius A* is roughly 2,000 times smaller than M87*, Sagittarius A* is 2,000 times closer to Earth. The EHT team was able to observe both black holes at a similar resolution—and astronomers had two comparable images of black holes for the first time ever. 

These images are a result of the collective effort of a wide variety of researchers and of the EHT, a distributed collection of eight high-altitude radio telescopes around the globe that form an Earth-sized observatory capable of capturing distant radio waves. 

These scientific achievements would not be possible without the help of Indiana University and Jetstream, which helped lay the groundwork for this incredible image. The IU-led Jetstream project is the first production cloud system funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the national science and engineering research communities under grant 1445604. Since 2014, IU has received more than $14 million to lead Jetstream. 

“Jetstream kick-started the EHT’s cloud computing effort,” said Chi-kwan Chan, leader of the EHT Computations and Software Working Group and an assistant astronomer at the University of Arizona. “The EHT now can survey through hundreds of thousands of imaging parameters because of our initial work with Jetstream.” 

“I am so proud that Jetstream continues to be an incredible resource for researchers and educators across the globe,” said David Y. Hancock, Jetstream principal investigator and IU director of advanced cyberinfrastructure. “We are honored to have played a part in making this image of a black hole a reality and look forward to future discoveries, now made possible by Jetstream2, from the cellular level to the universe level.” 

Jetstream, and now Jetstream2, are available for the national (non-classified) research community to conduct their research anytime, anywhere. These systems enable many U.S. researchers and engineers to make new discoveries that are important to understanding the world around us and to improving the quality of life of American citizens. They can be used by a wide variety of science domains such as biology, earth science/polar science, field station research, geographical information systems, network science, observational astronomy, and climate science. This incredible diversity of domains allows Jetstream and Jetstream2 to play pivotal roles in countless scientific experiments, models, and discoveries as part of the wider NSF’s cyberinfrastructure ecosystem. 

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants 2005506 and 1445604. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Learn more about Jetstream and Jetstream2 

Learn more about Sagittarius A* 


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