On Wednesday, April 10th 2019, the first black hole picture was finally revealed. This was a monumental step for the world of science.
The Event Horizon Telescope is the international team of scientists who created this image. They used a network of eight radio telescopes linked together to form a single, earth-size, observatory. This international collaboration, with two hundred members, nine telescopes, and 6 papers for the Astrophysical Journal Letters is what led to this discovery.
In order to capture this image, astronomers had to reach past the Messier 87, a giant galaxy in the constellation virgo. The black hole is a considerable amount larger than the sun is, releasing a violent jet of energy 5000 light years into space.
The team decided to nickname the black hole Pōwhi, which means “embellished dark source of unending creation”. The black hole is 6.5 billion times more massive than the sun, having a diameter of twenty-four million miles. The large mass and gravity it possesses cast a shadow against the swirling gas around it creating the donut shape visible in the picture.
These significant discoveries were announced simultaneously at news conferences in Washington D.C and five other places around the world. The image was put up on a screen in Washington, which was followed by cheers and applause from the room and thousands of fans following the event’s livestream.
This image opens up endless amounts of new opportunities for physics, such as now being able to observe bizarre objects directly. Scientists tell us that we can expect to see an overflow of new observations and cosmic discoveries from the black hole.
Kip Thorne, an astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology, said in an email, “It is wonderful to see the nearly circular shadow of the black hole. There can be no doubt this really is a black hole at the center of M87, with no signs of deviations from general relativity.” Janna Levin, a cosmologist and professor at Barnard College in New York, said, “What a time to be alive.”