TALK: Alison Peck: Ground based instruments around the world create one giant telescope, May 19

Learn more about black holes and how to spot them by linking telescopes across the globe.


Alison Peck
Alison Peck

TALK: A Telescope the Size of the Earth.
SPEAKER: Alison Peck, Very Long Baseline Array on Maunakea.
DATE: Friday, May 19, 2017.
TIME: 7:00 p.m.
PLACE: ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo (campus map).


Do black holes really exist and, if so, can we find them? The answer is yes—with the help of telescopes from around the world, including observatories on Maunakea.

In April 2017, astronomers worked together to combine advanced technology in an extraordinary technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) linking ground based instruments around the world to create, in effect, one giant telescope called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). The EHT will deeply explore and target the supermassive black hole that resides at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The goal of this ambitious collaboration is to capture the first image of a black hole’s event horizon, which is the point where light can no longer escape the object’s gravity.

This infographic details the locations of the participating telescopes of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) and the Global mm-VLBI Array (GMVA). Their goal is to image, for the very first time, the shadow of the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, as well as to study the properties of the accretion and outflow around the Galactic Centre.

Allison Peck will discuss the circumstances that cause black holes to form, and some of the methods that astronomers use to detect these exotic objects in space. As more data is collected through the EHT, the more scientists are joining in this global development in the quest to grasp a deeper knowledge of black holes, the mysterious objects that challenge our laws of physics.


Allison Peck currently serves as a scientist at Gemini Observatory. She has an extensive history of undertaking complicated projects in radio astronomy. She has been using the VLBA since she started working on her doctor of philosophy in physics at New Mexico Tech in 1994.

After obtaining her doctorate she spent two years in Germany where her focus was searching for gas falling into giant black holes. She moved to Hawai‘i Island in 2001 to work at the Smithsonian Submillimeter Array, and then went on to Chile in 2007 to commission the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter telescope, the largest ground-based telescope project in the world.

She continues utilizing the VLBA and other international Very Long Baseline Interferometry facilities today, including several of the telescopes that took part in the recent observations of the Galactic center. Although she has studied and worked all over the world, Peck says she is always happiest when she is working on Maunakea.


-Media release