Scientists Capture First Photo of Black Hole

First black hole image How to watch the 'groundbreaking' announcement

Using a global network of telescopes to see "the unseeable", an worldwide scientific team on Wednesday announced a milestone in astrophysics - the first-ever photo of a black hole - in an achievement that validated a pillar of science put forward by Albert Einstein more than a century ago.

The research was conducted by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, an global collaboration involving about 200 scientists begun in 2012 to try to directly observe the immediate environment of a black hole.

The image that was released today shows a black hole in a galaxy called M87, located about 53 million light years from our planet.

Black holes are so massive they warp space and time and allow no light to escape, so the photo is expected to be of the "edge" of the phenomenon.

Doeleman likened the ring structure with light orbiting the black hole to satellites orbiting the Earth, except that the black hole's gravity is so strong that it can grab the light.

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'X-rays help us connect what's happening to the particles near the event horizon with what we can measure with our telescopes, ' said Joey Neilsen, an astronomer at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, who led the Chandra and NuSTAR analysis on behalf of the EHT's Multiwavelength Working Group. Until then, we'll be admiring this dark abyss in all its emo glory. "Something I've been working on for many, many years, trying to build a physical model of a black hole environment and predictions, and the opportunity to study the hearts of black holes is fantastic". Telescopes in Hawaii, Arizona, Chile, Mexico, Spain and the South Pole participated in the ambitious research project. Researchers believe that the massive black holes, which exist in the center of every galaxy in the universe, were formed the same time as their galaxy.

The sizes of black holes can vary.

The team takes measurements to collect data with satellite dishes. Astronomers on Earth linked eight powerful radio telescopes to snap what is essentially the shadow of the black hole, cast by the glowing clouds of gas around it. No - it's a black hole!

The project cost $50 million to $60 million, with $26 million of that coming from the National Science Foundation.

The telescope data was gathered two years ago, over four days when the weather had to be just right all around the world.

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The black hole in M87 isn't the closest to Earth, but it's among the biggest, which made it a very promising target for the EHT, Derek Fox, an associate professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University, told Live Science (Fox was not affiliated with the EHT discovery).

The Event Horizon Telescope will continue to take images, both of M87's black hole and of the black hole at the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

The Black Hole picture has been seen as a breakthrough for scientists.

"We've been at this so long that there's such a buildup", he said.

By definition, they are a region in spacetime that compresses a huge mass into a very small space.

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