Black holes are no longer just something to read about in a science textbook. At the National Science Foundation on Wednesday morning, scientists revealed the first-ever real picture of the mysterious celestial object.
“For 25 years this was always a dream, a fiction, an expectation,” Heino Falcke, one of the astronomers from the Netherlands who contributed to the research, told NBC News. “I have seen many beautiful, detailed images of black holes — but all were just simulations. This one is so precious, so beautiful because it is real.”
Captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, the photo shows the black hole as a dark center surrounded by a ring of orange and yellow glowing light.
Black holes, which are formed when a massive star dies in a supernova explosion, are areas of space where the gravitational field is so strong, that nothing (not even light) can escape. The glow around the edge is caused by light bending around the black hole’s gravity. There are estimated to be some 100 million black holes in the universe.
According to a statement by the EU Commission, this particular black hole, which is located in the Messier 87 galaxy nearly 55 million light years from Earth, has a mass that’s 6.5 billion times the size of the sun.
To take the picture, EHT used a worldwide network of eight telescopes to create enough magnifying power to see what was previously unable to be seen. “[It is a] remarkable achievement,” Sheperd Doeleman, EHT director told Newsweek, adding that, “We now have an entirely new way of studying general relativity. This is just the beginning.”
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