See it: Scientists release first image of a black hole

See it: Scientists release first image of a black hole
Image via Shutterstock.

The great image release is done. And the picture is both spectacular and looks almost exactly like the predictions. You’ll see that the black hole’s accretion disk is brighter on one side (interstellar got that wrong, but it is exactly as predicted since 1979.) This is akin to the effect of a passing ambulance and how the tone changes — the powerful gravity is making some of the light slower from our point of view.

This is not OUR black hole by the way (the Milky Way’s) but the black hole at the center of a massive galaxy 53.5 million light years away, Messier 87.

This image is a result of the Event Horizon Telescope, a project that turned our entire planet into a telescope capable of spotting a quarter on the moon.

The EHT is an international collaboration that has formed to continue the steady long-term progress on improving the capability of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) at short wavelengths in pursuit of this goal.  This technique of linking radio dishes across the globe to create an Earth-sized interferometer, has been used to measure the size of the emission regions of the two supermassive black holes with the largest apparent event horizons: SgrA* at the center of the Milky Way and M87 in the center of the Virgo A galaxy.  In both cases, the sizes match that of the predicted silhouette caused by the extreme lensing of light by the black hole.  Addition of key millimeter and submillimeter wavelength facilities at high altitude sites has now opened the possibility of imaging such features and sensing the dynamic evolution of black hole accretion.  The EHT project includes theoretical and simulation studies that are framing questions rooted at the black hole boundary that may soon be answered through observations.

UPDATE: from Sitruc, Here’s a live feed of the press conference on Washington Post.


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