First-ever images of black hole revealed by scientists

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Today was a stunning day in the field of cosmology, and all of the science world. The first image ever of a black hole was revealed, based on data gathered by the Event Horizon Telescope.

The international collaboration focused on the massive galaxy M87 at a distance of 53 million light-years (one light-year is 5.9 trillion miles) from Earth.

The gravity of a black hole is so intense that light cannot slip past the boundary, or event horizon. But this one was so vast that it accumulated brilliant disks of gas and dust, creating an observable ring.

The black hole image on display was created by data from the worldwide linkage of eight radio telecopes for maximum resolution, a process called interferometry. 

Don Stevens, an astronomer and director of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Perkins Observatory, noted that the black hole mass is 6.5 billion times the mass of the sun. “The solar system would easily fit inside it’s event horizon,” Stevens said.

“The gravity of the black hole bends the light from the part of the disk ‘behind’ it so it looks like a ring around the event horizon,” noted Stevens.

“The work goes back decades. It started all the way back in 1979, when an astronmer by the name of Jean-Pierre Luminet ran a computer simultation of the environment around a black hole using Einstein’s theory.”

Black hole drawning (1979) from Jean-Pierre Luminet's work, using pencil dots. (Courtesy: OWU Perkins Observatory)

Today’s image has confirmed what scientists had suspected, and verified Einstein’s theory of relativity posited in 1916. 

“Everything from the origin of the universe to your GPS system that you use in your car depends on understanding Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity,” said Stevens. 

And now we have the irrefutable proof.

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