Black Hole Event Horizon Highlights: First-ever direct photograph of black hole M87 event horizon revealed

Researchers have captured an incredible new photo taken of a black hole ~58 million light years from Earth.

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  • 19:41 (IST)

    Aaaaaand.... that's a wrap. Thank you for joining us on this historic day!

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    Q: Future plans?

    A: April 2018 we had 8 telescopes. In April 2018 we added one in Greenland. We will add one more in Arizona which will increase the fidelity of the image. This is important to observe jets.

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    That's the end of the live-stream, folks!

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    The findings opens a new door to understanding the universe

    Black holes are one of the many ways to get answers to mysteries and unknowns in the universe.

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    Q: Future plans?

    A: April 2018 we had 8 telescopes. In April 2019 we added one in Greenland. We will add one more in Arizona which will increase the fidelity of the image. This is important to observe jets. By adding more telescopes we will be able to extend the image of the shadow of that image. We want to move to 0.87 mm wavelength. It increases resolving power by 30 percent. We also want to go into space and expect to have a space based radio telescope.

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    If the black hole in the picture is 58 million light-years away, are we seeing the object as it was 58 million years ago? 

    Yep, a researcher clarified.

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    "It is a cross-border activity. We just care that the telescopes are manned by scientists who care about science and space. It is a good model in how we can do distributed science" Shep Doelmann, Director of the Event Horizon Telescope Project.

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    Q: Can we understand how black holes produce jets? Do you see these evolving over time?

    A) We anticipate that we will be making models and compare it with several other multiwavelength models of black holes. Using this we can evaluate how the jets in black holes are produced.

  • 19:20 (IST)

    Data from the M87 is still coming in..

    The researchers are yet to look at the data collected in 2018, so they'll know if anything important has changed. Apparenty the M87 was in the middle of a "quiet" period in its life cycle.. Had it been flaring, the beautiful orange ring wouldn't have been visible at all.

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    "The image brought tears to my eyes. It's really a historic achievement." France A. Córdova, NSF Director

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    Scientists (metaphorically) touched by their findings

    "To see something for the first time.. to uncover a part of the universe fort the first time. That's an incredible thing," said one of the lead researchers from the EHT project. 

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    Black holes pack a LOT of energy 

    Temporarily, black holes when they exists become some of the most powerful "engines" in the galaxy. The jets are carrying ~10 billion suns of energy when they shoot out of the black hole core. 

    (P.S. The researchers sound super psyched at the thought of tapping black holes for energy... that's not crazy at all, is it?)

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    M87 is massive

    Even for a supermassive black hole, the black hole captured by EHT is huge. 

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    Black Holes formation 

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    The cosmic order

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    Following the shadow...

    Scientists picked up on the "shadow" of the black hole, the light that escapes from the black hole in a bright jet that shoots out from two sides of the black hole. The jet that the EHT team has captured, of the object in M87, was fortunate. Apparently Earth just happened to be along the path of one these two jets!

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    A few more images of the M87 Black Hole

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    Black Hole-watching needs good weather too 

    It's not just our day-to-day lives that are affected by weather. Black-hole-watching is an internationally-coordinated effort. Image the amount of forecasting and cancelled plans the EHT sees every month!

  • 18:47 (IST)

    ALMA Telescope is the EHT's crown jewel.

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is a setup with 66 radio telescopes set up across a patch of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. This is easily the most sensitive and cutting-edge of the telescopes in EHT's international roster.   

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    A Cosmic coincidence

    The Earth was the right size, with telescopes spread across countries. The black hole, too, was a size that allowed this image to be taken at the right time by us... considering the time-lag is only a few million years.

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    EHT is the most sensitive telescope we've got for black holes today 

    Photons and radio waves can make the journey of millions of light-years from black holes to Earth, but water vapour can kill those signal in minutes. The EHT is built to avoid this signal loss.

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    Black hole in the M87 galaxy photographed by EHT team 

    "6.5 billion times the mass of our Sun exists... and now we've got photographic evidence of one." 

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    What the EHT can help researchers do

    "What you're about to see will demonstrate an imprint on people's memories," Dr Cordova from the NSF says. 

    "We believe even supermassive blackholes exist.... and while they're small, we know they can outshine all the other stars in the vicinity," Dr Shep Doeleman from the NSF says.

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    "We've got simulations, illustrations (and a lot more)... but not an event horizon" 

    Scientists have done a lot of work towards understanding black holes, but capturing a photo of an event horizon is not something we've seen yet, one of the researchers says.

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    Show us the photo already!

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    We are underway!

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    The press annoucement is a-go!

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    Black holes haven't been easy to photograph 

    We share a home galaxy with Sgittarius A*, but the black hole is (fortunate) still really far away – 25,640 light-years, which is a massive stretch for modern telescopes. Smaller black holes that are much closer have been *proposed* by astronomers, but still remain problematic to spot, let alone photograph. 

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    Black Hole Collisions

    A team of scientists discovered ripples in space-time last year, called gravitational waves, from what they think is the biggest black hole collision ever recorded. Read below.

    Biggest Black Hole collision ever recorded

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    Here's what we know about the prime suspect today: Sagittarius A*

    Sagittarius A* is the closest supermassive black hole to Earth. It is thought to be located at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy.

    What EHT plans to do with Sagittarius A* is to look past the debris around it and catch a peak at its event horizon — the point at the "edge" of a black hole beyond which matter and light (and spaceships, in the case of sci-fi films) can no longer escape the pull of a black hole.

  • 18:23 (IST)

    What could an image of a black hole mean for science?

    Well, to start, this would be a first – and a big one. Noone's ever photographed a black hole before. But even outside of that, black holes have been an enigma to astophysicists – giving dark matter tough competition among the most confusing scientific concepts to grasp. A photograph would go a long way in understand what they are and how they work.  

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    8 out EHT's 11 telescopes worldwide are participating today!


The European Southern Observatory announced earlier this week that they have some big news to share. The international collaboration, Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, has now shared the very first images of a black hole's event horizon.

The EHT project has spent years on a singular mission: to capture images of the immediate environment of the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*, which is at the centre of the Milky Way. Also on EHT's agenda has been to try documenting an even larger black hole in the Messier 87 galaxy, which is a little over 50 million light-years from our planet.

First ever image of a Black Hole.

First ever image of a Black Hole.

Taking photographs of a black hole's interior is impossible because any light that comes too close to its horizon get pulled into these gravitational mammoths and is lost forever. This boundary, or point of no return, is the event horizon, which is the specific part of the black hole the EHT project hopes to ultimately capture on with its global telescope network.

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