If you haven’t already heard, astronomers over at Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has captured the first ever image of a Black Hole. Now, capturing the image was not simple as whipping out a camera with super zoom lens and hitting the shutter button. This thing is 500 freaking million trillion kilometers away which is obviously beyond what any typical telescope can see, let alone a consumer-grade camera and lens combo.
The image you see above that looked like an out-of-focused ring of fire was formed by data captured by eight radio telescope located at a variety of sites dotted around the globe – from the South Pole to Mexico to Boston, Massachusetts. Instead of regular optics, the image of the result of a composition of radio signals. A team of 200 scientists pointed the networked telescopes towards the direction of galaxy Messier 87 (M87) where the black hole is located and scanned its for 10 days.
The data captured by each dish was so massive (we are talking about petabytes here) to be send via Internet and therefore, the data from each observatory had to be stored on a physical hard drive, and transported to central processing centers where it was then merged together to result the image you see here. There were hundreds of hard drives, btw.
Here’s the official announcement made by the European Commission:
Anyways, long story short, mankind finally have the first hand look of the black hole which, btw, measures a 40 billion km across and has a mass that’s 6.5 billion times that of the Sun.
According to Professor Heino Falcke of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who proposed the experiment, “it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists.” Wait, what? There are more than one black holes? Pardon for my ignorance. For yours truly here ain’t no astrophysicist and I am neither an astronomer.
Even shorter story is, the image matches what theoretical physicists and even Hollywood directors have imagined the whole time. If you are keen to learn more, may we suggest that you check out the article posted on BBC News and on CNET. Those two articles have a ton of info. And also, check out the official website of Event Horizon Telescope if you yearn for even more science-sy details.
But before you go, below is a video posted by Veritasium on YouTube that will help you make sense of the first image of a black hole. I don’t pretend that I understand all of it, but the video did make my brain a little less mangled from the barrage of information.