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  1. In April 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration revealed the first image of the candidate super- massive black hole (SMBH) at the centre of the giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87). This event-horizon-scale image shows a ring of glowing plasma with a dark patch at the centre, which is interpreted as the shadow of the black hole. This breakthrough result, which represents a powerful confirmation of Einstein’s theory of gravity, or general relativity, was made possible by assembling a global network of radio telescopes operating at millimetre wavelengths that for the first time included the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Arraymore »(ALMA). The addition of ALMA as an anchor station has enabled a giant leap forward by increasing the sensitivity limits of the EHT by an order of magnitude, effectively turning it into an imaging array. The published image demonstrates that it is now possible to directly study the event horizon shadows of SMBHs via electromagnetic radiation, thereby transforming this elusive frontier from a mathematical concept into an astrophysical reality. The expansion of the array over the next few years will include new stations on different continents — and eventually satellites in space. This will provide progressively sharper and higher-fidelity images of SMBH candidates, and potentially even movies of the hot plasma orbiting around SMBHs. These improvements will shed light on the processes of black hole accretion and jet formation on event-horizon scales, thereby enabling more precise tests of general relativity in the truly strong field regime.« less
  2. Context. Realistic synthetic observations of theoretical source models are essential for our understanding of real observational data. In using synthetic data, one can verify the extent to which source parameters can be recovered and evaluate how various data corruption effects can be calibrated. These studies are the most important when proposing observations of new sources, in the characterization of the capabilities of new or upgraded instruments, and when verifying model-based theoretical predictions in a direct comparison with observational data. Aims. We present the SYnthetic Measurement creator for long Baseline Arrays ( SYMBA ), a novel synthetic data generation pipeline formore »Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) observations. SYMBA takes into account several realistic atmospheric, instrumental, and calibration effects. Methods. We used SYMBA to create synthetic observations for the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a millimetre VLBI array, which has recently captured the first image of a black hole shadow. After testing SYMBA with simple source and corruption models, we study the importance of including all corruption and calibration effects, compared to the addition of thermal noise only. Using synthetic data based on two example general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics (GRMHD) model images of M 87, we performed case studies to assess the image quality that can be obtained with the current and future EHT array for different weather conditions. Results. Our synthetic observations show that the effects of atmospheric and instrumental corruptions on the measured visibilities are significant. Despite these effects, we demonstrate how the overall structure of our GRMHD source models can be recovered robustly with the EHT2017 array after performing calibration steps, which include fringe fitting, a priori amplitude and network calibration, and self-calibration. With the planned addition of new stations to the EHT array in the coming years, images could be reconstructed with higher angular resolution and dynamic range. In our case study, these improvements allowed for a distinction between a thermal and a non-thermal GRMHD model based on salient features in reconstructed images.« less