The first ever image of a black hole, taken in an international effort, has been released by the National Science Foundation. The seemingly ominous mass is located in the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy, 55 million light years away from our planet.
To capture the photo, 5,000 trillion pieces of data were collected by eight radio telescopes around the world. The network of telescopes is called the Event Horizon Telescope or EHT. Combined, the telescopes create a massive virtual one nearly the same size as Earth.
Black holes are, not always but usually, collapsed stars with incredibly strong gravitational fields, allowing nothing—not even light—to escape. Since one cannot see a black hole, scientists instead study the way matter around it reacts. The photo does not show us the black hole, but it shows us the light bending around its “point of no return,” also known as the event horizon.
Another reason why black holes cannot be seen is size, which depends on its mass. M87’s black hole may be the largest one viewed from Earth, as it is 6.5 billion times the mass of our sun.
This groundbreaking image has become yet another beam of light in the study of the vast, dark universe.
[Sources: USA Today; CNN]