Astronomers capture first image of black hole

The gargantuan black hole at the heart of distant galaxy Messier 87.
The gargantuan black hole at the heart of distant galaxy Messier 87. Photo: Event Horizon Telescope

The first photo of a black hole has been published by astronomers who pooled the efforts of several telescopes to knit together an image of the cosmic body. The photo depicts a dark circle surrounded by an orange halo of gas and plasma.


"We have taken the first picture of a black hole," said Sheperd Doeleman, Event Horizon Telescope project director. "This is an extraordinary scientific feat accomplished by a team of more than 200 researchers."

The bright ring of orange is formed as light bends in the intense gravity surrounding the black hole, according to EHT project.

It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the sun in our solar system and is located at the centre of the Messier 87 galaxy.

Black holes are created by the death of large stars, collapsing in on themselves as the core becomes unstable and the outer layers are blown away.

The presence of black holes is thought to affect the space environment in strange ways – warping spacetime and super-heating any nearby material.

The EHT project succeed in capturing the photo by using an array of eight telescopes dotted across the globe. The observations were achieved by synchronising the telescope facilities and accounting for the rotation of the earth.

The technique used is detailed enough to read a newspaper in New York from a cafe terrace in Paris, according to the researchers.

Astronomers have long-wanted to capture an image of a black hole and it is hoped that the EHT will help researchers by providing a new way to study the universe’s most extreme objects.

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