For the first time in recorded history, we now know what a black hole looks like. Scientists released the first image Wednesday morning as countless viewers from around the world tuned in. It was once thought an event like today could never happen, but with the advancement of technology and the combined efforts of many scientists, it was made possible.
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Event Horizon Telescope, which is a global network of telescopes, released the first images in Washington D.C. as people from Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei, and Tokyo all watched live.
“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” said Sheperd Doeleman, director of the project. “We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole.”
CNN reported that approximately 200 people, who worked for more than a decade on this, were involved in the project. For those who are not scientifically savvy, let’s break down exactly what a black hole is.
Essentially, a black hole is so large that it warps space and time. It consumes light and never releases it. Scientists hypothesized that the mouth of the black hole would have dust and gas swirling around at the speed of light, which we know now to be true. It’s also what gives off the almost luminescent glow.
The black hole image was captured in a massive galaxy, which is about 55 million light-years from Earth. It is estimated that the mass of the black hole exceeds 6.5 billion times that of the sun and has an astonishing gravitational pull, according to Space.com.
Scientists from all over the world were giddy with excitement. Feryal Ozel, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona told ABC News: “This has been our first chance to see the inner workings of black holes and to test a fundamental prediction of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. Not only the existence of a shadow that indicates a point of no return — or an event horizon — but also the size and shape of that shadow.”
“It’s a dream come true, on many levels,” Ozel explained further. “Something I’ve been working on for many, many years, trying to build a physical model of a black hole environment and predictions, and the opportunity to study the hearts of black holes is amazing. This kind of resolution in astronomy is unprecedented. This is up to a million times better than some other telescopes.”