Astronomers released the first-ever photographic image of a black hole today. The first photograph, which comes from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, shows the black hole that is at elliptical galaxy Messier 87 or M87. The EHT is a network of 10 radio telescopes on four continents that collectively operate like a single instrument nearly the size of the Earth.
“We’ve exposed a part of our universe we’ve never seen before,” The New York times quoted Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and director of the effort to capture the image, during a Wednesday news conference in Washington, D.C. The first photo looks like a “ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of the galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from here, resembled the Eye of Sauron”, the New York Times reported.
The EHT project is an international partnership formed in 2012. Its main objective is to directly observe the immediate environment of a black hole. The findings will provide insight into the celestial object so dense that their gravitational field swallows everything including light.
Scientists have obtained the first image of a black hole, using Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87. The image shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole that is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun pic.twitter.com/AymXilKhKe
— Event Horizon ‘Scope (@ehtelescope) April 10, 2019
Black holes are extremely dense pockets of matter with incredible mass and minuscule volume. They drastically warp the fabric of space-time and anything that passes too close gets sucked into it be it a wandering star or a photon of light. Black holes exist from the size of a human cell to more massive than the sun.
Black holes of stellar mass are formed when a massive star collapses at the end of its life cycle. After a black hole forms, it continues to grow by absorbing mass from its surroundings.
“The imagery is mind-blowing enough in its own right. But even more significant is the trail the new results will likely blaze,” Space.com reported quoting researchers.
Peter Galison, a physics professor at Harvard University who co-founded Harvard’s interdisciplinary Black Hole Initiative (BHI), compared the imagery’s potential impact to that of the drawings made by English scientist Robert Hooke in the 1600s, which showed people what insects and plants look like through a microscope, the report said.