You’ve heard of black holes, probably a million times in your life. They’re these wild things in outer space that eat light and sometimes each other, creating ripples in space-time, and there’s probably even one right in our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
But in the century since Albert Einstein theorized the existence of black holes, nobody has seen one—until today.
On Wednesday morning, scientists from around the world in simultaneous press conferences in the US, Belgium, Chile, Taiwan, and more, unveiled the first-ever photo of a black hole.
“We are delighted to report to you today that we have seen what we thought was unseeable,” Shep Doeleman, project director of the Event Horizon Telescope, the project that captured the image, said at the National Science Foundation’s press conference in Washington, DC.
The image captures the black hole’s event horizon—essentially the barrier between the black hole’s interior and exterior space. It’s the point at which light can no longer escape the black hole, and also the name of a great Sam Neill sci-fi horror movie.
The black hole was captured using data from telescopes all over the world. The Event Horizon Telescope is actually a collection of telescopes. Really, it’s as if the entire world was turned into one giant telescope, all pointed in the direction of the Messier 87 galaxy, the location of the black hole that was observed. This allows for extremely high resolution.
“It’s the equivalent of being able to read the date on a quarter in Los Angeles when were standing right here in DC,” Doeleman said.
The image is not only the culmination of a century of science, but of a massive collaborative effort that spanned the globe.
“To take a picture of something that one man dreamt 100 years ago, you need people from 40 different countries, you need people from all over the world,” said Carlos Moedas, the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation at the press conference in Brussels.
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