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The first image of a black hole: The most mysterious thing in the Universe

Apr 11, 2019, 8:30 am

Astronomers have revealed the first picture of a black hole. It is one of the star-devouring monsters that is scattered throughout the universe and obscured by impenetrable shields of gravity. These mighty and massive monsters are spread across galaxies and have a gravitational field so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape.

What is a black hole?

The term coined in the mid-60s by American physicist John Archibald Wheeler; a black hole is a part in space where the gravitational pull is so strong, that not even light can escape it. In many ways, a black hole acts more-or-less like an ideal black body, as it reflects no light. The intense gravity occurs because the matter has been pressed into a tiny space. And this compression can take place at the end of a star’s life. Some black holes are a result of dying stars.

The images shared provides a dark core encircled by a flame-orange halo of white-hot gas and plasma that looks like any number of artists’ that was under renderings over the last 30 years. But it’s a real deal this time. Scientists have been contemplating over invisible dark stars since the 18th century, but never has one been spied by a telescope, much less photographed.

This is a huge day in astrophysics. We’re seeing the unseeable. Black holes have sparked imaginations for decades. They have exotic properties and are mysterious to us – NSF director, France Cordova

Black holes are invisible and come in a range of sizes. They are much seen because of the strong gravity that is pulling all of the light into the black hole’s center. The black hole’s mass and size determine what kind it is. There are primarily three types of black holes.

The smallest ones are known as primordial black holes; the most common type of medium-sized black holes is called stellar, and the largest black holes are called supermassive.

To get the first ever image, the astronomers coordinated eight ground-based radio telescopes around the world to form one Earth-sized Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), an array specially designed and finely networked to capture images of a black hole. This breakthrough was announced in a series of six papers published in a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The main image reveals the black hole at the center of Messier 87 (M87), a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster 55 million light-years from Earth. It has a mass of 6.5-billion times that of the Sun.

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