Space Breakthrough: Black hole picture captured for first time
Early this month, on April 10, NASA released the first-ever photograph of a black hole. The picture was captured by an international network of radio telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). The breakthrough heralded a revolution in our understanding of the universe’s most enigmatic objects.
Black holes are the darkest regions in the universe. And yet, when scientists announced that they had, for the first time ever, been able to capture a photograph of a black hole, the image appeared bright orange and circular.
The picture shows a halo of dust and gas, tracing the outline of a colossal black hole, at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, 55m light years from Earth, reports The Guardian.
The black hole itself – a cosmic trapdoor from which neither light nor matter can escape – is unseeable. But the latest observations take astronomers right to its threshold for the first time, illuminating the event horizon beyond which all known physical laws collapse.
Sheperd Doeleman, EHT director and Harvard University senior research fellow told The Guardian: “Black holes are the most mysterious objects in the universe. We have seen what we thought was unseeable. We have taken a picture of a black hole.”
About black holes
Black Holes, explains The Guardian, were first predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which reimagined gravity as the warping of space and time by matter and energy. The equations predicted that, beyond a certain threshold, when too much matter or energy is concentrated in one place, space and time collapse, leaving behind a sinkhole through which light and matter can enter but not escape.
At first these were thought to be mathematical oddities, rather than real astronomical objects, but in the past century overwhelming evidence has confirmed that black holes are out there, reports The Guardian.
The edge of the black hole is defined by its so-called event horizon. This is the point at which escaping would require something to travel at faster than the speed of light – which as far as we know nothing does – so it is the point of no return.
Black holes are surrounded by an accretion disk of dust and gas, orbiting at close to the speed of light. A lot of this material is destined for oblivion, although some of it is ejected as powerful jets of radiation, The Guardian reports.