Environment

Scientists Unveil First Ever Photo of Black Hole

The supermassive black hole, located 55 million lightyears from Earth, provides a glimpse at one of space's deepest mysteries.


Scientists have released the first ever photo of a black hole, giving the world a look at the depths of space and one of the cosmos most mysterious phenomena.

"We have seen what we thought was unseeable," said Sheperd Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. "We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole."

Image courtesy Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

The image, which was unveiled Wednesday morning at the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC , was captured with a network of telescopes and comes from the galaxy Messier 87 (M87) approximately 55 million lightyears from Earth. The black hole in this image is considered a "supermassive" black hole. Just how big is supermassive? This black hole is approximately seven billion times more massive than the sun.

"This is a huge day in astrophysics," said National Science Foundation Director France Cordova. "Black holes have sparked imaginations for decades. They have exotic properties and are mysterious to us. Yet with more observations like this they are yielding their secrets."

Black holes have been a subject of fascination for scientists ranging from Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking. NASA says black holes are made up of massive amounts of matter squeezed into a small area, which creates such a powerful gravitational field that everything drawn into it (including light) becomes trapped. The point of a black hole where not even light can escape is known as the "event horizon."

A global network of telescopes were used to capture the first image of a black hole. Image credit National Science Foundation.

According to the New York Times, the image was captured by the network of eight telescopes over the course of 10 days in 2017 . Since then, scientists across the world have been working to decode the massive amounts of data and assemble the image, so that it could be released Wednesday morning.

Since that time, a ninth telescope has been added to the network in Greenland. Scientists continue to capture images of M87, as they hope to observe changes in the galaxy and the supermassive black hole over time.

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