First Ever Black Hole Photographed – 7 Interesting Facts About the M87 Black Hole

Image of Black Hole

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Black holes have long been the subject of mystery and intrigue, mostly because of their elusive nature. Due to their ability to even absorb light (as well as everything else around them), they have been impossible to photograph. 

That is, until now.

For the first time in human history, a black hole has been photographed! 

Accomplishing this incredible task involved some pretty incredible feats, including collaboration at an unprecedented scale to effectively turn the whole Earth into one giant telescope. Read on to find out more about them, and the first ever black hole photograph.

First black hole photograph – 7 interesting facts

Here are 5/10 things you need to know about the very first black hole photograph:

  1. This incredible accomplishment means that the world finally has photographic evidence of a supermassive black hole.
  2. The black hole photographed is pretty far from the Earth (in case you were worried), 55million light years away in fact, and is located at the core of galaxy M87 (near the Virgo galaxy cluster).
  3. Eight radio telescopes around the world were combined to create a massive telescope – the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) –  in order to capture this image.
  4. The size of the black hole is immense, and contains 6.5billion times more mass than the Sun!
  5. Even with the sophisticated network of telescopes, it was no easy feat, as they needed to be completely synchronised. For this, the scientists used atomic clocks which were so accurate that they lost only one second per hundred million years! 
  6. The data collected amounted to over 5,000 terabytes! Hundreds of hard drives were used to store that gargantuan amount of data.
  7. According to the data collected, the EHT scientists were able to determine the size of this supermassive black hole. The M8 black hole is 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun and 40 billion km across – that’s larger than Neptune’s 200-year orbit of the sun. To say it is massive is an understatement of epic proportions… 

Related video – Why is this black hole photograph such a big deal

Einstein was right

The observations from the black hole photograph confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity. His theory was incredibly accurate with the findings from the observations from M87, including the speeds of matter around the centre of the black hole being consistent with being near the speed of light, as well as the nature of space, time and gravity.

No wonder he’s deemed one of the greatest minds of all time… 

The power of collaboration

This photograph was the result of not just incredible technology, but also an unprecedented amount of collaboration between a team of over 200 scientists from across the globe.

Just goes to show how strong we are when we decide to work together and rise above petty divisions based on race, sex, religion, etc.

Last words

This might seem like a trivial thing – it’s just a photograph after all – but it is far from trivial. The technological and scientific breakthrough this has resulted in, and the future impact of this is significant.

“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago. Breakthroughs in technology, connections between the world’s best radio observatories, and innovative algorithms all came together to open an entirely new window on black holes and the event horizon.” – Sheperd Doeleman, Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project director.

What do you think of the first black hole photograph?

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