As expected, astronomers capture historic first image of a black hole

The creation of the algorithm that made the first black hole image possible was led by MIT grad student Katie Bouman

EXCERPT: . . . We are giving humanity its first view of a black hole -- a one-way door out of our universe," said EHT project director Sheperd S. Doeleman of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. "This is a landmark in astronomy, an unprecedented scientific feat accomplished by a team of more than 200 researchers."

Black holes are extraordinary cosmic objects with enormous masses but extremely compact sizes. The presence of these objects affects their environment in extreme ways, warping spacetime and super-heating any surrounding material so that it glows. The theory of general relativity predicts that the heated material will illuminate the extremely warped spacetime, making a dark shadow visible.

"If immersed in a bright region, like a disc of glowing gas, we expect a black hole to create a dark region similar to a shadow -- something predicted by Einstein's general relativity that we've never seen before," explained chair of the EHT Science Council Heino Falcke of Radboud University, the Netherlands. "This shadow, caused by the gravitational bending and capture of light by the event horizon, reveals a lot about the nature of these fascinating objects and allowed us to measure the enormous mass of M87's black hole." The black hole in the centre of M87 has a mass of more than six billion solar masses.

The EHT observations indeed reveal a ring-like structure with a dark central region -- the black hole's shadow. The ring appears in multiple separate observations using different imaging methods that were analysed independently from each other. "Once we were sure we had imaged the shadow, we could compare our observations to extensive computer models that include the physics of warped space, superheated matter and strong magnetic fields. Many of the features of the observed image match our theoretical understanding surprisingly well," remarked Luciano Rezzolla, professor for theoretical astrophysics at Goethe University. "This makes us confident about the interpretation of our observations, including our estimation of the black hole's mass." (MORE)

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The Eye of Sauron! And it's looking this way!

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