The wold on Wednesday got its first-ever sighting of the black hole, an enigmatic cosmic occurrence that scientists have for decades tried to better understand.
The image was captured by 200 scientists at the Event Horizon Telescope, a network of eight radio telescopes across the globe including in Antarctica, Spain and Chile, reported The Guardian. It was unveiled during a live multi-nation press conference at 9 am Eastern Time (6.30 pm in India). The Event Horizon Telescope launched its observations in 2017, focussing on Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, and M87.
The image shows the black hole at the centre of the galaxy Messier 87, about 55 million light-years from Earth and with a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun, Event Horizon Telescope said in a press release. The black hole is located 55 million light years from Earth and has a mass 6.5-billion times larger than our sun, it said.
The photograph shows a dark centre surrounded with dark orange halo. The image shows the “accretion disk” of the black hole, which scientists said was made of white-hot gas and plasma.
“For the first time we’ve taken a picture of this most enigmatic object,” Ziri Younsi, a member of the Event Horizon Telescope, told The Guardian. “It’s literally a gateway out of the universe into something completely unknown.”
The data that has been captured does not yet explain “what’s going on inside”, Younsi said. “The black hole is not the event horizon, it’s something inside. It could be something just inside the event horizon, an exotic object hovering just beneath the surface, or it could be a singularity at the centre or a ring,” Younsi added.
Albert Einstein’s Theory of Gravity was the first to posit the existence of black holes, a cosmic phenomenon where the gravitational field is so intense that no matter, not even light, can escape.
“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago,” Sheperd S Doeleman of the Centre for Astrophysics said in the press release. “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.”