Astronomers reveal first picture ever captured of a black hole

Bessie Dean
April 11, 2019

"It's nearly humbling in a certain way", said Shep Doeleman, the project's director.

New conferences have taken place across the world today, Wednesday March 10, to disclose the "groundbreaking result" from the EHT project. In addition to the briefing in Washington, there will be simultaneous announcements in Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo. The very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) used allows the EHT to get to an angular resolution of 20 micro-seconds, "enough to read a newspaper in NY from a sidewalk café in Paris" according to the NSF. Black holes also have a way of super-heating the material around them and warping spacetime, per CNN.

As any science-fiction fan knows, black holes are concentrated areas of gravitational collapse so massive that nothing - not even light - can escape their pull.

By using all eight observatories, scientist effectively made the Earth into one giant space eye - one that may give us our first real glimpse of a black hole. "The black hole is the Dark Souls dark sign", @GenePark tweeted, referencing the notoriously hard video game.

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"The challenge now will be to measure the exact density of the matter around a black hole, and to better understand the crucial role of magnetic fields, and how matter within the accretion disk rotates". Fortunately, our galaxy's supermassive black hole is on the quiet side. Usually, the more mass there is, the larger the black hole. The telescopes that collected that initial data are located in the USA states of Arizona and Hawaii as well as Mexico, Chile, Spain and Antarctica.

The image shows a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the center of Messier 87, a galaxy that's approximately 55 million light-years away from Earth, The New York Times reported. The black hole in question is about seven billion times more massive than our sun, and was described by the Times as "a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity".

The groundbreaking discovery was made by the Event Horizon Telescope, an worldwide project involving telescopes across the globe that describes itself as a "virtual Earth-sized telescope". "It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe". The objective, then, is to visualize the black hole by contrast. The eight radio telescopes combined to produce a magnification equivalent to reading text on a phone in NY from a sidewalk in Paris, according to MIT.

Fortunately, more telescopes have joined the campaign over the past couple of years, and astronomers are working on ways to improve their data processing methods.

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