First-ever black hole image released

The first-ever image of a black hole – an object or region of space that has collapsed in on itself resulting in a huge amount of mass being concentrated in a very small area – has been released.

The picture was unveiled at simultaneous press conferences across the world on Wednesday. Black holes are objects or regions of space that have collapsed in on themselves, which results in a huge amount of mass being concentrated in a very small area. Their gravity is so strong it pulls in everything around it, including light.

There are two types of black holes, the garden-variety black holes, which are 20 times bigger than the sun and the super-massive black holes which are at least a million times bigger.

About the black hole

The image released reveals the black hole at the centre of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the constellation of Virgo. It is located 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5 billion times larger than our solar system’s sun.

How did this happen?

This major breakthrough was the result of an international scientific collaboration called the Event Horizon Telescope project.

They established a network of eight telescopes across the world, which then scanned the black hole over a period of 10 days.

The telescopes are located at challenging high-altitude sites, including in the Spanish Sierra Nevada, volcanoes in Hawaii and Mexico, mountains in Arizona, the Chilean Atacama Desert, and Antarctica.

How is it possible to photograph a black hole?

The fact that black holes do not allow light to escape makes viewing them difficult.

The scientists look for a ring of light — disrupted matter and radiation circling at tremendous speed at the edge of the event horizon — around a region of darkness representing the actual black hole.

According to scientists, “We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago. Breakthroughs in technology, connections between the world’s best radio observatories, and innovative algorithms all came together to open an entirely new window on black holes and the event horizon.”

Fiction often inspires science, and black holes have long fueled our dreams and curiosity. Today, thanks to the contribution of European scientists, the existence of black holes is no longer just a theoretical concept. This discovery proves again how working together with partners around the world can lead to achieving the unthinkable and moving the horizons of our knowledge.