Astronomers Capture Image of Black Hole for the First Time

A NASA artist's concept illustration shows a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun

Thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, we now get our first direct look at a supermassive black hole and its shadow.

Anonymous to the public just days ago, a United States computer scientist named Katie Bouman has become an overnight sensation due to her role in developing a computer algorithm that allowed researchers to take the world's first image of a black hole.

To capture the image of a black hole - an object that is so dense that not even light can escape it - scientists combined the power of eight radio telescopes around the world using "Very-Long-Baseline-Interferometry" which effectively created a virtual telescope around the same size as the Earth itself.

"Think of a star ten times more massive than the Sun squeezed into a sphere approximately the diameter of New York City, " according to NASA.

The picture shows the black hole having a dark center, encircled by a bright orange and yellow ring spreading outward.

Today (April 10), a global collaboration of more than 200 astronomers presented the first image of a directly-observed black hole. Until then, we'll be admiring this dark abyss in all its emo glory. The relatively low-res image was nonetheless fantastic, and the fact that scientists were able to capture an image of the black hole from a distance of approximately 55 million light-years away is absolutely mind-boggling. The observatories, located in Hawaii, Arizona, Chile, Mexico, Spain and Antarctica, individually captured the black hole's radio signals over four nights in April 2017, when the weather was optimal in all six regions. Researchers believe that the massive black holes, which exist in the center of every galaxy in the universe, were formed the same time as their galaxy. The scientists are now processing the data collected by the telescopes and hope to release a photo in the very near future. After her postdoctoral fellowship with the Event Horizon Telescope, she plans to be an assistant professor in the CMS department at Caltech in 2019.

The news conference slated at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. shall be presided over by France Córdova, head of the National Science Foundation.

It is a "surprising" finding, an "astonishment" and "wonder", giving "the strongest evidence that we have to date for the existence of black holes", Harvard astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman, EHT's project director, described the image, whose release won immediate applause at the conference. "By getting radio telescopes around the world to work in concert like one instrument, the EHT team achieved this, decades ahead of time".

He said the team "uncovered part of the universe that was off-limits to us".

The Black Hole picture has been seen as a breakthrough for scientists.

By definition, they are a region in spacetime that compresses a huge mass into a very small space. "This makes us confident about the interpretation of our observations, including our estimation of the black hole's mass". The black hole picture is a remarkable achievement because it is not a computer simulation - it is the real deal.

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