During April 2017, all eight radio telescopes throughout the world turned to look in the same direction. Their objective was an ambitious one: to image the shadow of the event horizon of a supermassive black hole. As of today, they have exposed the very first image of the black hole at the center of Messier 87, an enormous galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster.

As per the photo, it is not the direct black hole itself but its shadow. Black holes have the potential to make a gravity field without including visible light. Instead, this image tells the black hole’s event horizon, the swirl of dust and gas and stars and, importantly, light (hence the image) that circles the edge of the black hole before being sucked inside, and the shadow of the black hole beyond

Michelle Creech-Eakman is one of several people leading the development of an unusual new telescope. Known as the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer, it will consist of 10 individual telescopes. Astronomers will combine their light to provide extremely sharp views of astronomical objects — sharper than any other telescope to date. And it’ll see fainter objects than any other optical interferometer.

Therefore, the consortium was able to achieve this incredible feat using a phenomenon called interferometry. When you see it at the same time with two telescopes that are far apart, you can syndicate the observations in an unbelievable way. The EHT’s telescopes are spread all throughout the world, from Chile and Spain to Hawaii and Mexico, all the way down to the South Pole. Combined, these people have the power of a single telescope the size of Earth, the only method that would allow them to collect sufficient data to see M87 like this.

“If immersed in a bright region, like a disc of glowing gas, we expect a black hole to create a dark region similar to a shadow — something predicted by Einstein’s general relativity that we’ve never seen before,” explained chair of the EHT Science Council Heino Falcke of Radboud University, the Netherlands in a statement. “This shadow, caused by the gravitational bending and capture of light by the event horizon, reveals a lot about the nature of these fascinating objects and has allowed us to measure the enormous mass of M87’s black hole.”

The giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87, NGC 4486), also called Virgo A, is one of the most remarkable objects in the sky. M87 has been discovered and cataloged by Charles Messier on March 18, 1781, when he also cataloged 8 other nebulous objects M87’s diameter of apparently about 7′ corresponds to a linear extension of 120,000 light years, more than the diameter of our Milky Way’s disk.

“Once we were sure we had imaged the shadow, we could compare our observations to extensive computer models that include the physics of warped space, superheated matter, and strong magnetic fields. Many of the features of the observed image match our theoretical understanding surprisingly well,” said Paul T.P. Ho, EHT Board member and Director of the East Asian Observatory. “This makes us confident about the interpretation of our observations, including our estimation of the black hole’s mass.”

The black hole image captured by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.
The black hole image captured by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.

This observation regarding the back hole is an amazing feat, at the same time, it is also a critical test for Einstein’s theory of general relativity, quantum mechanics, and certain astrophysical theories. The more information related to this has been published several papers in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

It is still curious for everyone, what is inside the back whole? However, there is only a minor certainty about the black hole.

“Black holes have sparked imaginations for decades,” said National Science Foundation director France Córdova. “They have exotic properties and are mysterious to us. Yet with more observations like this one, they are yielding their secrets. This is why NSF exists. We enable scientists and engineers to illuminate the unknown, to reveal the subtle and complex majesty of our universe.”

How the first photo of a black hole was captured

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