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The first-ever picture of a Black Hole

An image of M87, a Black Hole, was revealed today by a group of scientists at The National Science Foundation

In April 2017, scientists used a global network of telescopes to see and capture the first-ever picture of a black hole, according to an announcement by researchers at the National Science Foundation. They captured an image of the black hole at the center of a galaxy known as M87.

"We have seen what we thought was unseeable," said Sheperd Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. "We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole."

WHAT IS A BLACK HOLE?

Black holes are extremely dense pockets of matter, objects of such incredible mass and miniscule volume that they drastically warp the fabric of space-time. Anything that passes too close, from a wandering star to a photon of light, gets captured. Most black holes are the condensed remnants of a massive star, the collapsed core that remains following an explosive supernova. However, the black hole family tree has several branches, from tiny structures on par with a human cell to enormous giants billions of times more massive than our sun.

Artist rendition of a Black Hole

HOW ARE BLACK HOLES STUDIED?

Black holes have long inspired the imagination yet challenged discovery. However, from a combination of theory and observation, scientists now know much about these objects and how they form, and can even see how they impact their surroundings. 

So, how does one study a region of space that is defined by being invisible?

Theorists can calculate properties of black holes based on their understanding of the universe, and such discoveries have come from a range of great thinkers, from Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking to Kip Thorne. However, despite being so powerful, it's hard to see something that does not emit photons, let alone traps any light that passes by.

Now, nearly a century after scientists suggested black holes might exist, the world now has tools to see them in action. Using powerful observatories on Earth, astronomers can see the jets of plasma that black holes spew into space, detect the ripples in space-time from black holes colliding, and may soon even peer at the disc of disrupted mass and energy that surrounds the black hole's event horizon, the edge beyond which nothing can escape.

 

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