Penangite among first scientists behind historic black hole image

Joann Johnston
April 11, 2019

"The image shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole that is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun".

Scientists on Wednesday revealed the first-ever image of a black hole, giving visual evidence to research dating back to Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

While the entire world was impressed by this big reveal, the generation of millennials that we are, we quickly saw some memes rolling in too.

Scientist have managed to capture one of the most mysterious objects in the universe, about 55 million light-years away from Earth - a distance of 323,324,400,000,000,000,000 miles (520,340,180,000,000,000,000km).

By definition, black holes are invisible, because no light escapes from them. Will Einstein's model, having held up spectacularly against every test imaginable in Earth's gravitational field, hold up to tests performed in a gravitational field more than two trillion times the mass of our sun?

"I think this image will be an important part of astronomy going forward for years to come", Doeleman said, adding, "To know that these monsters exist, that is humbling".

The fact that black holes do not allow light to escape makes viewing them hard.

Mainstream scientists began taking the idea of black holes seriously again in the 1960s, using X-ray detectors on a sounding rocket to detect emissions from the first known black hole, Cygnus X-1, in 1964.

First-Ever Image of Black Hole Revealed

He said: "Are we getting ever so closer to the realisation God is omnipotent, God is everlasting?"

Meanwhile, as scientists are still unsure as to how black holes are assembled or what would happen if something was to fall into it, they do insist that there shouldn't be any lingering doubts about their existence.

Lia Medeiros, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory, likens the math of black holes to dividing by zero. Over the past two years, researchers from around the world have worked to turn that information into the clearest image possible by syncing up the measurements taken concurrently around the world. But creating an image of the black hole required a telescope quite a bit larger.

Some black holes are inactive, but not this one, she said. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a black hole.

Scientists have called the first image of a black hole one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century. It took a team of more than 200 astronomers to pull this off, along with eight massive radio telescopes organized into the "Event Horizon Telescope" or ETH.

The project's researchers obtained the first data in April 2017 using radio telescopes in the USA states of Arizona and Hawaii as well as in Mexico, Chile, Spain and Antarctica. Most galaxies are thought to have a supermassive black hole at their center. Meanwhile, the Hubble space telescope spotted a odd blob of matter in the jet, known as HST-1, which brightens and dims in ways that have left scientists confused.

One can, however, image the accretion disk.

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