Mankind had its first glimpse of a real black hole Wednesday, over a century after their existence was first theorized based on Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity.
Astronomers from Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) published the stunning image of a supermassive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy which is far larger than any black hole in our Milky Way galaxy.
The black hole is located in the M87 galaxy and is 1,000 times larger than the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, which is itself 4 million times larger than Earth's sun.
As a result of its massive size, the supermassive black hole was easier for astronomers to photograph than the black hole at the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*, despite being 2,000 times farther away.
“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago,” said EHT Director astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman.
The photographs show a ring of bright matter, energy, and radiation circling a dark center. Nothing, not even light, can escape once it has crossed a black hole's event horizon, making the phenomenon among the most difficult to view in the cosmos. As a result, scientists have to look for the ring of light created by materials circling the black hole beyond the event horizon.
EHT project scientist Astrophysicist Dimitrios Psaltis said, “The size and shape of the shadow matches the precise predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, increasing our confidence in this century-old theory.”
“Imaging a black hole is just the beginning of our effort to develop new tools that will enable us to interpret the massively complex data that nature gives us,” Psaltis said.
Black holes were first predicted through Einstein's theory of general relativity in 1915. The term 'black hole' was coined by astronomer John Wheeler in 1967, and the first black hole was discovered in 1971 by Charles Thomas.