Astronomers are about to reveal a spectacular landmark image that will mark the first time humanity has ever seen a black hole. Black holes have sparked imaginations for decades.
The data used to create the image could help scientists better understand gravity and other phenomena, said Charles Gammie, an astronomy and physics professor at the University of IL. Black holes, often created by the death of massive stars and found at the centers of galaxies, have enormous masses but compact sizes. While nothing can escape the gravitational vortex of a black hole - not even light - gas and radiation rage in a swirling eddy around the brink of the abyss.
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"Years ago, we thought we would have to build a very large space telescope to image a black hole".
According to the Event Horizon Telescope website, "This long-sought image provides the strongest evidence to date for the existence of supermassive black holes and opens a new window onto the study of black holes, their event horizons, and gravity". But the most important part of this photo is where there is no light.
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The project was established in 2012 by dozens of institutions around the world, with the goal of developing a way of capturing an elusive black hole.
"We have now seen the unseeable", said Shep Doelman, director, Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), when he released the images of the black hole, which has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the sun and is situated 500 million trillion km away in the M87 galaxy. This first image of a supermassive black hole nearly certainly will be improved upon in years to come. "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".
Today, at 9 a.m. ET, we might see the first-ever actual image of a black hole.
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Despite its name, the Event Horizon Telescope is actually a collection of eight radio telescopes located around the world, precisely co-ordinated using highly accurate atomic clocks.