Scientists reveal first true image of a black hole

A black hole's mass can be that of a large mountain up to millions times the mass of the sun.

By
April 10, 2019 21:35
2 minute read.
First ever photo of a blackhole

First ever image of a black hole. (photo credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS)

Scientists revealed the first true image of a black hole, captured and released by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration and streamed live by the US National Science Foundation on Wednesday.

Indirect evidence and a great deal of speculation has been published concerning the mysterious existence of black holes. They include measures of black holes clashing and their possible location, and the uncovering of gas clouds rotating around them, conducted by a Tel Aviv University team of astrophysicists and published in Nature last November.




But an actual image was something completely beyond scientists’ imagination. Until now.

Black holes have fascinated science lovers and the wide public alike since the first modern solution for characterizing them in 1916 by the German physicist Karl Schwarzschild.

As with many topics within the field of Quantum Physics, black holes mesmerize scientists with their mysterious characteristics that physicists are still trying to predict and understand.

The EHT project, an ambitious collaboration between over 20 universities around the world, decided to tackle the issue. What seems to come straight from a sci-fi movie script, is in fact a project that has a worldwide network of radio dishes. They create an Earth-sized interferometer that measures the size of the emission of the the region surrounding the black hole. The measured data is then translated into an image through algorithms, developed on the basis of Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

But what are we talking about when we talk about black holes?

First things first: a black hole is anything but an empty space. Quite the opposite - it’s composed of an enormous amount of matter produced from the collision of stars, later compressed into a small space. The matter is condensed to such an extent that the pulling force of gravity becomes so strong that even light cannot escape it - hence the name black hole, due to its invisibility.

Black holes can contain a mass that ranges from being the equivalent of a large mountain up to that of thousands or even millions times greater than the sun. “Supermassive” black holes, for example, have a mass greater than 1 million suns combined.

The two images expected to be released by EHT are from Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole that has four million times the mass of the sun, located at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way - and from a black hole that is even larger, located at a faraway galaxy called the M87.

No wonder that black holes leave every science lover in absolute awe.

Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relatively predicts that sufficiently compacted mass can deform space-time - which is an accurate characterization of a black hole: a very strong deformation of space-time. For scientists, this can be translated as an opportunity for reconciliation between the laws of  gravity and the world of quantum physics.

“The Theory of General Relativity predicts that photons emitted by the gas falling into a black hole should travel along curved trajectories, forming a ring of light around a ‘shadow’ corresponding to the location of the black hole,” EHT stated on its website. “What we are hoping to observe with the EHT is rather a ‘silhouette’ of a black hole: its dark shape on a bright background of light coming from the surrounding matter, deformed by a strong space-time curvature,” the collaboration's statement read.


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