One hundred years ago (1915), one man (Albert Einstein) proposed a extremely bizarre idea, unlike, any fiction one could think of- BLACK HOLE, a place in space where all laws of physics break down and a point of no-return, where even light cannot escape. Beyond mathematical formulas that proposes its existence, it was difficult to verify Einstein’s claims as it is not easy to photograph a black hole. This is because they are entirely dark and featureless. Nothing can escape a black hole (hence the name), not even light.
Today, 100 years later, with over 200 scientists working on it from 40 different countries and spending close to 50 million dollars, we have finally captured the first ever real image of a black hole. A huge breakthrough for humanity.
I have been waiting for this day for a long time. Since the day the international collaboration- Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) was setup two years ago. They proposed to image the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy (Sagittarius A*) and another at the center of nearby galaxy M87. Today they unveiled the blackhole at the center of our nearby galaxy M87. It is 500 billion billion kilometers away from us and is about 6.5 billion times the mass of our sun. The diameter of the black hole is estimated to be 100 billion kilometers. Scientists combined the power of eight radio telescopes around the world. This effectively creates a virtual telescope around the same size as the Earth itself that’s powerful enough to capture enough data from the supermassive black hole.
How to interpret the image?
What you see is the shadow of the black hole. The bright halo is caused by superheated gas falling into the hole, surrounding a perfectly circular dark hole. The edge of the dark circle at the centre is the point at which the gas enters the black hole, which is an object that has such a large gravitational pull, not even light can escape.
Although they are relatively simple objects, black holes raise some of the most complex questions about the nature of space and time, and ultimately of our existence. It is remarkable that the image we observe is so similar to that which we obtain from our theoretical calculations. So far, it looks like Einstein is correct once again. But having the first image will enable researchers to learn more about these mysterious objects. They will be keen to look out for ways in which the black hole departs from what’s expected in physics. No-one really knows how the bright ring around the hole is created. Even more intriguing is the question of what happens when an object falls into a black hole.
Below are the five publications that describes the black hole- All of them were published at the astrophysical journal letters.
- First M87 Event Horizon Telescope Results. I. The Shadow of the Supermassive Black Hole
- First M87 Event Horizon Telescope Results. II. Array and Instrumentation
- First M87 Event Horizon Telescope Results. III. Data Processing and Calibration
- First M87 Event Horizon Telescope Results. IV. Imaging the Central Supermassive Black Hole
- First M87 Event Horizon Telescope Results. V. Physical Origin of the Asymmetric Ring
Before we depart our ways, let me just add one last thing. This is personally extremely exciting to me because, this observation once again validates the faith in science. It shows that we can accurately make predictions, experiment and validate it in a reproducible manner. Have a nice day ☺