Scientists Reveal The First-Ever Photo Of A Black Hole – Why It’s A Big Deal

NASA / JPL-Caltech

A never-before-witnessed phenomenon has occurred during your lifetime, and this incredible breakthrough will not be the last.

Released on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019, an international scientific team announced one of the most incredible revelations of our time – and something many have long considered “unseeable.”

An Earth-sized telescope that is made of a combination of many individual telescopes across our planet first synched up in 2017 and worked together to capture a huge amount of data from our neighboring galaxy named M-87.

Working in unison, they gathered all of this information and radio waves over the course of a week. This project was set on capturing the very first image of a black hole humanity has ever seen.

For centuries scientists have known about and estimated the size of black holes. This specific one that was observed by the Event Horizon Telescope and photographed, is considered to be a “super-massive black hole” which puts most normal sized ones to shame.

“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago,” said astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian.

In simple terms, a black hole is created when a star dies and collapses in on itself. The ensuing hole that is created also bears an incredibly strong gravitational pull. This pull is so strong that it literally rips apart the fabric of space and time.

Where does a black hole lead? Nobody really knows for sure. But, the discovery of these new images helps to open the door to a better understanding of black holes in general.

Scientists first observed the black hole at the center of neighboring galaxy M87 – one of the largest galaxies in the universe. After spotting it in this galaxy, they set out to get more information from it in 2012 – and today’s release is one of the project’s main goals.

M87 sits in the constellation Virgo (for you star-watchers) and is known as a “supergiant elliptical galaxy” that is considered very close to us. 53 million light years is “very close.”

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You are looking at the first ever image of a black hole, captured by the @ehtelescope Project. Within the dark spot is the black hole—a place so gravitationally dense nothing can escape from it, not even light. The orange halos surrounding the hole are hot gas emissions, swirling around it under the influence of the strong gravity near the event horizon—the point past which not even light can escape before falling into the void. To capture this image, a network of telescopes around the globe coordinated efforts to observe the black hole that sits at the center of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster, 55 million light-years from Earth. This effort to create an “Earth-sized” telescope resulted in five petabytes of data (“the equivalent of billions of cat videos” according to EHT researchers) which researchers refined to create this historic first image. The National Science Foundation played a pivotal role in this discovery by funding individual investigators, interdisciplinary scientific teams and radio astronomy research facilities since the inception of EHT. Over the last two decades, NSF has directly funded more than $28 million in EHT research, the largest commitment of resources for the project #RealBlackHole #ehtblackhole

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The image above is the culmination of years of hard work, data crunching, and the cooperation of hundreds of people worldwide.

The very first image of a black hole, while not clear as day, is the gateway to some of the most-amazing astronomical breakthroughs our lifetime could ever see.

Because of this image, scientists are able to make bigger advances in how we understand the universe and – especially, gravity. This creates a way to examine a gravitational pull much more closely and test Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Check out the full video below that explains exactly why this blurry photo of a super-massive black hole is important.