What humanity learned from the first-ever image of a black hole

Katie Ramirez
April 11, 2019

We are all set to find out whether astronomers have been able to record an image of a black hole. The one in our galaxy is closer but much smaller, so they both look the same size in the sky.

As stunning and ground-breaking as it is, the EHT project is not just about taking on a challenge.

The first problem was solved by using the now famous Event Horizon Telescope, which relied on the principle of strength in numbers to collect light data from the elusive black hole. Against the black backdrop of the inky beyond, capturing one is a near impossible task.

"I'm so excited that we finally get to share what we have been working on for the past year", Bouman wrote in a post on Facebook. Not only are they able to emit huge jets of plasma, but their enormous gravity pulls in streams of matter into its core.

You've seen the very first photo of a black hole, now meet the person who helped to pull it together. Matter in this disk will convert some of its energy to friction as it rubs against other particles of matter.

The reveal of the image is a huge milestone for the study of black holes.

The research was conducted by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, an worldwide collaboration involving about 200 scientists begun in 2012 to try to directly observe the immediate environment of a black hole. And so, the Event Horizon Telescope grew in number, underwent tweaking to varying degrees, and made to join forces to achieve the same result.

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Google Doodle artist Nate Swinehart was sketching scenes for a black hole animation while in his vehicle on the way to work, at the same time as EHT representatives prepared to announce their landmark achievement, a Google representative told Live Science in an email. The outline of one of the universe's most compelling mysteries - a vestige, perhaps, of the big bang itself - has been revealed.

The data collected was equivalent to a lifetime collection of selfies from 40,000 people, said discovery team member Daniel Marrone of the University of Arizona. Scientists had to synchronize eight radio telescopes on four continents.

"I am also a part of the data processing and imaging teams, so was heavily involved in processing/ validating/checking the data and turning them into the images", he told The Star in an email interview. In one photo from the BBC, Bouman is standing next to a table stacked with hard drives of data. How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

The new image confirmed yet another piece of Einstein's general theory of relativity. It also helps to unlock the mystery of black holes.

Though black holes are compact objects, they are exceptionally massive - the mass of M87's black hole is about 6.5 billion times that of our sun, the National Science Foundation (NSF) said in a statement.

'This photo of the black hole is awesome, but wait.Enhance! Hopefully, more telescopes will be added to the EHT's array soon, to get ever clearer images of these fascinating objects. I have no doubt that in the near future we will be able to gaze upon the dark heart of our very own galaxy.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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