The first observational image of a supermassive black hole!

The first real, non-simulated image of a supermassive black hole!!
Credit: ESO

More than 200 astronomers collaborated and using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) succeeded in taking the first picture of a supermassive black hole!! EHT connects telescopes around the world, forming a virtual telescope with the size of Earth!

Based on Einstein’s general relativity, black holes create a dark region that resembles a shadow. This shadow is caused by the gravitational bending of light when captured by the black holes’ boundary, named event horizon, from which EHT takes its name.

Scientists observed the centre of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the Virgo galaxy cluster. Messier 87 hosts a supermassive black hole with mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun and is located about 55 million light-years from Earth.  Their analysis revealed a ring-like structure with a dark central region, the black hole’s shadow (see embedded image). Then, they compared their observations with predictions from computer simulation to conclude that the observed image matched extremely well the theoretical predictions!!

Observing a black hole was something thought to be impossible a generation ago. However, thanks to technological discoveries, ingenious algorithms and the collaboration of a large number of scientists, we now have a real, non-simulated image of a supermassive black hole!!


Publications: Paper I, II, III, IV,V,VI

Source: ESO