If you're in a hurry, listen to the black hole photo explained in 2 minutes:
For the very first time in history, a black hole and its shadow have been captured in an image, thanks to an international network of telescopes.
NASA describes a black hole as:
“An extremely dense object from which no light can escape. Anything that comes within a black hole’s ‘event horizon,’ its point of no return, will be consumed, never to re-emerge, because of the black hole’s unimaginably strong gravity.
“By its very nature, a black hole cannot be seen, but the hot disk of material that encircles it shines bright. Against a bright backdrop, such as this disk, a black hole appears to cast a shadow.”
If you’re not sure why this photo is such a massive achievement, here’s the deal - the supermassive black hole is located in the centre of Messier 87 (M87) which is an elliptical galaxy located 55 MILLION LIGHT-YEARS away!
The only reason why we can even see it from this far away is because the intensely bright halo of fire surrounding the black hole is brighter than all the billions of other stars in the galaxy combined!
As no light can escape it, a black hole cannot be seen, however, the hot disk of material which surrounds it is so bright, that it casts a shadow.
While scientists believe blackholes can be as small as an atom, this blackhole has been classified as ‘supermassive’ and is 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun!
So HOW did we capture it?
Well, a network of eight linked telescopes around the world (known was the Event Horizon Telescope) all joined forces and operated together as if they were one giant telescope the same size as our planet.
"Instead of constructing a giant telescope that would collapse under its own weight, we combined many observatories," Michael Bremer, an astronomer at the Institute for Millimetric Radio Astronomy (IRAM) in Grenoble, told Agence France Presse.
"This is an amazing accomplishment by the EHT team,” said Paul Hertz, director of the astrophysics division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“Years ago, we thought we would have to build a very large space telescope to image a black hole. By getting radio telescopes around the world to work in concert like one instrument, the EHT team achieved this, decades ahead of time.”
Look what happens when we all unite!