Black hole gets welcomed to the Earth with memes

Katie Ramirez
February 2, 2020

This soon-to-be famous image, courtesy of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), is our first picture of the black hole that sits inside Messier 87 (M87), a galaxy located more than 53 million light-years from Earth. The announcement included the release of seven papers that document how the landmark discovery was made. "By getting radio telescopes around the world to work in concert like one instrument, the EHT team achieved this, decades ahead of time". Over the past two years, researchers have worked to turn that information into the clearest image possible by syncing up the measurements taken concurrently around the world. The picture of a glowing orange-yellow ring around a dark core, was compiled from observations by eight ground-based radio telescopes known collectively as the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). Later, when the data are combined, astronomers can ensure that each observatory's data align with the data from all the rest. And according to research published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the structure of black hole is almost circular, as predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity, meaning the theory has passed yet another stringent test.

The bright patch at the bottom of the photo confirmed a longstanding prediction about black holes, namely that material around a black hole moves at light speed before it is consumed.

"Nevertheless, it will be very nice and gratifying to see the black hole shadows directly", Lai said. "They're helping mold the shape of galaxies and clusters of galaxies".

Black holes are invisible and come in a range of sizes. There are mainly three types of black holes.

"We always thought that black holes were behind these structures, driving these engines, but we never knew", Markoff said. The jets are carrying the energy equivalent of 10 billion supernova, she said. When black holes releases one of these jets - which are enormous fountains of energy and magnetized material - its contents move at almost the speed of light.

Markoff said a black hole converts energy nearly 100 times better than nuclear fusion at power plants.

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"Galaxies grow by forming new stars, so [these black holes] keep galaxies from growing", Markoff said.

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.

While much around a black hole falls into a death spiral and is never to be seen again, the new image captures "lucky gas and dust" circling at just far enough to be safe and seen millions of years later on Earth, Dempsey said.

"The yellow is the most intense emission, the red is less intense, and then black is little or no emission at all", Fox said.

"We are now entering the era of precision, horizon-scale observations of black holes", Doeleman explains. But the more distant one was easier to take pictures of because it rotates more slowly. This image is a major step toward solving the puzzles of these mysterious objects, but exactly what's beyond that glow is still a challenge waiting to be solved.

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