This historic image of a black hole has taken a team of 200 scientists and a network of 8 telescopes all around the world to accomplish. It was born from the dream of Professor Heino Falcke of Radboud University, who first conceptualized the project in 1993 as he was taking up his doctorate. He was the first to realize that a black hole’s radio emission could be strong enough to reach Earth’s telescopes.
It took 20 years to argue his case but was eventually granted funding from the European Research Council, the National Science Foundation, and different agencies in East Asia. The image below of a black hole in galaxy M87 stands 26 years in the making, and worth more than $50 million.
The image reveals a “ring of fire” encircling a dark center. Superheated gas falling into the hole is what leads to the halo surrounding the dark circle while the edge of that circle is the point wherein gas enters the black hole.
This Black Hole is 500 million trillion km away and measures 40 billion km across, which is triple Earth’s size. Scientists have used the term ‘monster’ to describe it, while Professor Falcke explains to BBC:
What we see is larger than the size of our entire Solar System. It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists. It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe.
Dr. Ziri Younsi, of University College London and a collaborator of the project, shares that this image is quite close to what we have always imagined:
Although they are relatively simple objects, black holes raise some of the most complex questions about the nature of space and time, and ultimately of our existence. It is remarkable that the image we observe is so similar to that which we obtain from our theoretical calculations. So far, it looks like Einstein is correct once again.
Still, the image is considered “an extraordinary scientific feat”. It paves the way for more discoveries to be found. Already, scientists are refocusing to ask for the ways the reality of a black hole departs from what theory has told us. They ponder the creation of the halo around the black hole and always: the fate of objects which fall into them.
What did you think of this first photo?