Science & Technology

First ever image of a black hole unveiled

It is a 'breakthrough for humanity', say scientists

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Wednesday 10 April 2019
Scientists in Brussels unveiled the first-ever image of a black hole. Photo: European Southern Observatory

Scientists at Brussels have unveiled the first image of a black hole in what they have hailed as a 'breakthrough for humanity'.

The image was unveiled by members of the international collaboration, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project at 15.00, Brussels time (CEST) at the headquarters of the European Commission. EHT is a global network of telescopes that had been attempting to capture the first photograph of a black hole ever.

Black holes were first predicted by the legendary Albert Einstein. He had first predicted their existence on the basis of his new theory of gravity, the general theory of relativity, in 1916. But even before that, physicists had surmised that if large quantities of matter are collected in small enough spaces, then the gravitational pull of such objects would be so strong that nothing, not even light will be able to escape them. Einstein further cleared the picture as he conceptualised the universe as a space-time fabric characterised by one universal constant — the speed of light. According to him when massive objects like stars warp this fabric around themselves they form shapes which become the actual manifestation of gravity.

The term 'black hole' was first coined by astronomer John Wheeler in 1967 and the first actual black hole was discovered by astronomers in 1971. Since then, many other black holes have been discovered and a lot of information has been gathered about their behaviour. But nobody has ever directly observed or seen a black hole.

The image that was unveiled at the conference revealed the black hole at the centre of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the constellation of Virgo. This black hole is located 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5-billion times larger than our sun.

The project was majorly funded by the European Union that pumped in 44 million Euros.  The scientists explained that research into the project went back several decades, a period of nearly 40 years. For producing the image that was unveiled, a fleet of the most powerful telescopes was assembled and combined with super computers. At least 200 people from 40 different countries participated in the project, making it a truly 'global participation'.

The data from the observations will be made public in a few days for it to be analysed by scientists across the world. 

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