Scientists Capture First Photo of Black Hole

Olive Hawkins
April 11, 2019

Blue Marble, meet Black Shadow.

MIT Haystack Observatory scientist Kazunori Akiyama, along with many others, doubted if they would be able to see the black hole's shadow.

To put the challenge into perspective, the black hole that was captured, known as M87 is larger than the size of our entire solar system, it's about three million times the size of the Earth. The image even brings the opportunity to rethink established knowledge like Einstein's theory of general relativity. Scientists predict that the hole is approximately 53 million light-years away from Earth.

Today, around 130 such supermassive black holes at the centres of nearby galaxies have had their masses directly measured from the orbital velocities and distances of stars and gas circling the black holes, but not yet on a death spiral into the central gravitational compactor.

The photo shows a bright ring that is formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole - which is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun. The first to consider such an object was the English polymath John Michell in a 1784 essay. We didn't know.we were going to get that ring of light.

Working independently 12 years later, the French scholar Pierre-Simon Laplace gave the idea a more thorough mathematical treatment. So how did you get involved with taking a picture of a black hole? "This sometimes happens in physics". But the more distant one was easier to take pictures of because it rotates more slowly. Scientists expressed optimism about getting a picture of that one, perhaps within a year. He conceived of gravity not as a force, as Newton did, but as a outcome of the way massive objects curve space and time.

You've seen the very first photo of a black hole, now meet the person who helped to pull it together. Despite the name, black holes are objects, rather than holes in the fabric of spacetime. "That thing your math teacher told you not to do in high school?"

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"History books will be divided into the time before the image and after the image", said Michael Kramer from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

The output of this illicit mathematical operation is an extremely distorted pocket of space-time such that even light, the fastest thing there is, gets trapped.

The research was conducted by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, an global collaboration involving about 200 scientists begun in 2012 to try to directly observe the immediate environment of a black hole. He's a black hole, ' she wrote. Some of the light from the disc, following the curvature of space created by the black hole, bends around it, creating an outline of the event horizon. "You pinch off a piece of space-time so that it's invisible and hidden from view".

It's a cosmic first - visual proof of the supermassive black hole.

"A black hole is very, very far away and very compact", Bouman told MIT News in 2016.

But this latest image confirms the power of theoretical astrophysics. "It really makes me believe in humans as a species".

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