At the center of a galaxy more than 55 million light-years away, there's a supermassive black hole with the mass of several billion suns. And now, for the first time ever, we can see it. Astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman, head of the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, speaks with TED's Chris Anderson about the iconic, first-ever image of a black hole -- and the epic, worldwide effort involved in capturing it.
Astrophysicists and astronomers testified on Capitol Hill about the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which captured the very first image of a supermassive black hole. Among the witnesses were Event Horizon Telescope Director Sheperd Doeleman and National Science Foundation Director France Cordova.
The National Science Foundation has announced a new award -- the NSF Diamond Achievement Award -- which will be presented for the first time to the international team of researchers who recently captured the first-ever image of a black hole.
Hubble astronomers have assembled the largest, most complete image of the universe ever recorded, by stitching together data gathered by multiple telescopes over years of observations. This is expected to be the largest, highest-resolution available image of distant galaxies until next-generation telescopes like the James Webb are online and available.
Some may not be impressed by the slight blurriness of the image. But there’s so much more to it than what immediately meets the eye. Two astrophysicists — Sheperd Doeleman, the project leader of the Event Horizon Telescope, and Katie Mack of North Carolina State University, who was not involved with the effort — walked me through a few of the coolest aspects of the image that helped me appreciate just wonderfully mind-blowing it is.
Imaging a supermassive black hole takes a massive amount of funding; the EHT program lists its "key funders" as the United States' National Science Foundation, the European Union's European Research Council, and funding agencies in East Asia. According to a statement from the European Commission, the ERC funded three of the leading scientists and their teams. It's also the primary sponsor of the $15.7 million BlackHoleCam project, whose investigators partnered with the EHT team to measure and finally capture the M87's black hole.
A project called the Event Horizon Telescope delivered a fuzzy view of the dark monster at the center of an elliptical galaxy known as M87. The edge of the black hole’s dark circle, known as the event horizon, was surrounded by the bright glare of superheated material falling into the black hole.
The light that makes up the image is not coming from the black hole – black holes do not emit any light, hence the name. Instead, the image shows the black hole’s silhouette against a background of hot, glowing matter that is being inexorably pulled in by its powerful gravity.
We have peered into the abyss for the very first time. The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which uses a network of telescopes around the globe to turn all of Earth into an enormous radio telescope, has taken the first direct image of a black hole.
Need a kick-start? You would be hard-pressed to find one more powerful than a supernova – a sudden explosion in which a dying star ejects most of its mass. That is what happened to the pulsar pictured here, sending it racing away from its home with a tail of particles and magnetic energy stretching behind it for 13 light years.