One of the most powerful, confounding and fascinating objects is in existence in space, and on Wednesday humanity finally saw it with its own eyes. Yes, am talking about the first picture of the Black Hole which has set the news channels on full berserk mode as well as our social media feeds on fire. It has been the water cooler conversation of the day. Did you wonder what is so special about this fuzzy looking picture of a large gas mass surrounding a hole (which looks like a doughnut tbh) and what’s the buzz all about?
Well, you have come to the right place. Get ready to stock your brains up with the essential facts you need to know!
What is a black hole?
A massive star that has run out of fuel can produce the kind of extreme density needed to create such a distorted bit of world. As the star buckles under its own weight and collapses inward, space-time caves in with it. The gravitational field hence becomes so strong that not even light or any forms of radiation can escape, rendering the region where the star used to be profoundly dark: a black hole.
They’re not as uncommon as science fiction films might have made you believe, either. Scientists estimate there are around 100 million in our galaxy alone, though none are close enough to the Earth to be a concern. This black hole of the M-87 galaxy was observed by the event horizon telescope.
How difficult was it to capture this image?
The event horizon telescope is a project to create a large telescope array consisting of a global network of radio telescopes spanning across nine stations and combining data from several Very Long Baseline Interferometry stations (VLBI) around the Earth.
The aim of the project was to observe the immediate environment of the Blackhole present in the super-giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M-87), a galaxy that’s 55 million light years from Earth.
By combining results from nine separate stations, scattered from Europe to Antarctica, a virtual telescope of 9,000 kilometres in diameter has been created, making it the world’s biggest camera.
The data that went into creating the image is actually equal to the number of selfies 40,000 people might take in their lifetimes, according to University of Arizona astronomy professor Dan Marrone.
Scientists have said that if you’re sitting in a hotel in Perth, you would be able to see a guy sitting at a hotel in Sydney, not only would you be able to see him, you’d be able to see his eye colour, and also the brand of juice he has been drinking. o_O
How big is this black hole?
The Messier 87 black hole is big. Really really big. It is estimated to have a radius of 60 light years!!!. The sun would be a fragment next to it.
What’s the connection with Einstein’s theory?
The most important takeaway is that Einstein was right. Here, Einstein’s theory predicted the observations from M-87 with unerring accuracy and is seemingly the correct description of the nature of space, time, and gravity. The measurements of the speeds of matter around the centre of the black hole are consistent with being near the speed of light.
“This is the dawn of a new era of black hole astrophysics,” says Kazunori Akiyama, co-leader of the EHT imaging group. There is actually more to science than just these pretty pictures. Hopefully, more telescopes will be added to the EHT’s array soon, to get ever clearer images of these fascinating objects. Maybe, in the near future, we will be able to gaze upon the dark heart of our very own galaxy.