DELAWARE, Ohio (WCMH)– The wait is over! Wednesday is being called “black hole day” because the first ever images of a black hole have been released to the public.
Director of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Perkins Observatory Don Stevens tells NBC4 what this means to the science community as well as people’s everyday lives as well.
“This is going to be one of the most iconic things about science for decades to come,” said Stevens.
The black hole in the image released Wednesday is at the center of a galaxy called M-87. It is about 54 million light years away from earth. It was discovered in 1781 and is in the constellation Virgo.
“It’s applicable beyond black holes even to everyday things,” Stevens explained. “Your GPS would not work without a general understanding of relativity.”
Black holes are huge amounts of matter compressed into a small area that create a massive gravitational field so strong, it draws in everything around it— even light.
“It reminds me in meteorology when we finally had the first images of the inside of the vortex of a tornado,” added Storm Team 4 meteorologist Ben Gelber. “We theorized about the mechanics— of course we knew tornadoes existed, black holes were even more theoretical, but to actually have the visualization and to put the mathematics and the physics into the picture and have it confirmed— in this case Einstein‘s theory of general relativity, this is huge.”
National Science Foundation researchers took the photo two years ago— and had been teasing the release of the image.
“This is an attention-grabbing event we all can appreciate, because this is something momentous like those first steps on the moon 50 years ago from this summer in July with Apollo 11,” Gleber said.
To get the image, scientists combined the power of eight radio telescopes that are part of the event horizon telescope collaboration. that involved creating a virtual telescope which in physical form, would be around the size of Earth.
“Another interesting fact about this project is that they gathered five petabytes of data. That amount of data would be equivalent to the population of Delaware… All of the selfies they would take over their entire lifetime,” Sevens added.