First-Ever Photo of Black Hole Taken by Astronomers


Jenna Miller, Editor in Chief

For decades, black holes have been thought to be the “unobservable,” hence their name. It was believed they were pitch-black enigmas indistinguishable from the rest of the universe when viewed by modern technology — until now. Thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope, a project made possible by over 200 scientists from all over the world, a photo of a black hole 55 million light years away, in the Messier 87 galaxy, was captured.

“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” claimed Shep Doeleman, according to the New York Times. Doeleman was the director of the Event Horizon project and an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The Event Horizon Telescope is a misnomer – it’s really a network of radio antenna located on top of mountains in four continents and pre-built telescopes all synced up to the same wavelength. “We took telescopes that were already built around the world and were able to observe at the wavelength we needed, and we connected them together into a network that would work together,” said Dr. Katie Bouman, according to CNBC. She is a 29-year-old computer scientist who works at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT and was involved heavily in the project.

It took two years of computer analysis to generate the image of the black hole. In the image, the black hole appears as a blurred ring of orange light with the pitch-black hole in the center of it; the light represents radio waves which the black hole is sucking in.

With this image of a black hole being captured by this groundbreaking network of telescopes, Vox claims that “we can better understand the black holes that lie at the centers of galaxies. We can better understand how our theories of gravity work in the most extreme of conditions.” This advance in technology also opens up new frontiers for scientists to learn more about other aspects of outer space that were long thought to be mysteries, like the black holes.