European Parliament claims black hole picture “would not have been possible without the EU”
“Did you know…” is usually the beginning of a sort of lark. A joke that has to do with the situation you’re in and how bad it is. Usually dry wit.
For example, if you were adrift on the ocean, surrounded by salt water, a good ‘did you know’-remark would be: “did you know we are likely to die from thirst?” Or when you are facing death by hypothermia up in the mountains, one could say “did you know that because of paradoxical undressing, I am probably going to be the last person you’ll see naked?” Sure, it’s gallows’ humour. And it might not be particularly funny. At least you’re not an EU intern using it for a post on Facebook, which isn’t even supposed to be funny.
Instead, the post is a combination of typical Brussels exaggeration of the EU’s importance, a lack of information and giving the reader the wrong impression.
Let’s start with the wrong impression. It is entirely logical for the reader to assume that the EU contributed to the Black Hole-picture through (one of its) space programmes. This is not the case.
The picture was taken by a project called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). The EU did give money to the EHT. But it did so through the European Research Council, not through the ESA as one would assume going on the information given. The EU provided about €34.3 million in funding (€14 million for the BlackHoleCam-project and another €30.3 for the RadioNet-project). A rather long list of other institutions providing funding suggests that the claim that it wouldn’t have happened without the EU is rather facetious.
From the EHT website, we learn that:
“The EHT is an international collaboration that has formed to continue the steady long-term progress on improving the capability of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) at short wavelengths in pursuit of this goal. This technique of linking radio dishes across the globe to create an Earth-sized interferometer, has been used to measure the size of the emission regions of the two supermassive black holes with the largest apparent event horizons: SgrA* at the center of the Milky Way and M87 in the center of the Virgo A galaxy.”
Radio dishes across the globe are not satellites in space. The project isn’t going into space either:
“By linking together existing telescopes using novel systems, the EHT leverages considerable global investment to create a fundamentally new instrument with angular resolving power that is the highest possible from the surface of the Earth. Over the coming years, the international EHT team will mount observing campaigns of increasing resolving power and sensitivity, aiming to bring black holes into focus.”
So whatever new discoveries the just-voted-for 2020-2027 EU space program will bring, it is not new pictures of black holes – at least not from the EHT. That’s the wrong impression.
It is also a lack of information. Not in the least on the side of the writer of the post. The post tells you nothing about the current EU space program. It takes something the reader has seen in the news, claims it as its own and suggests that the €16 billion the EU will spend in the coming years will bring more of the good stuff. When it won’t, because those are different projects. The writer either didn’t know or didn’t care. That’s either stupidity or arrogance.