Apr 10, 2019 01:20 PM EDT
Armed with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), the first-ever photo of a black hole was delivered to the public this day. The astronomical wonder is said to be inside the Messier 87 galaxy, which is nearby the Virgo galaxy cluster. That is 55 million light-years away from the Earth. The black hole is said to have 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun.
A black hole is a highly dense region where nothing - not even light or radiation - can escape. The EHT was designed to capture images of a black hole but this purpose has not been realized until now. By linking telescopes around the globe to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth, the studies of the EHT researchers have proven to be a success after years of international collaboration.
Putting the EHT together entails upgrading and linking eight pre-existing telescopes. The different locations of these telescopes have proven to be a challenge as well, being located in high-altitude sites. The telescope locations included volcanoes in Hawaii and Mexico, the Chilean Atacama Desert, mountains in the Spanish Sierra Nevada and Arizona, and Antarctica.
Heino Falcke, chair of the EHT Science Council, explained that Einstein's general relativity states that if immersed in a bright region, such as a disc of glowing gas, a black hole is expected to create a dark region similar to a shadow, which is in turn caused by the gravitational bending and capture of light by the event horizon. This concept has allowed for the measurement of the black hole.
EHT project director Sheperd S. Doeleman of the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian have expressed utmost delight over their success in capturing a still image of the black hole. Doeleman further pointed out that a team of over 200 researchers made the extraordinary scientific feat possible.
Today's announcements and reported observations is the result of decades of hard work and global teamwork where 13 institutions worked together in the creation of the EHT, as the US National Science Foundation (NSF), together with the EU's European Research Council (ERC), and some funding agencies in East Asia provided the funding for the project.
People all over the world share the delight and triumph over the success of EHT. Some have taken to social media to share the news along with a snippet of the first-ever photo of the sensational astronomical display that is the black hole in Messer 87.
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