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Though many might not know it, we’ve actually never seen a black hole before. When you think of black hole photos, you’re usually remembering artistic renderings based on the underlying science. With astronomy, this is generally the case. As with things like Planet Nine, we can usually detect an item’s effect on the space around it before we know for sure if something is there or what it is.
That all changed today.
According to BBC, researchers have been working feverishly on the accomplishment as far back as 1993:
“Prof [Heino] Falcke [of Radboud University in the Netherlands] … had the idea for the project when he was a PhD student in 1993. At the time, no one thought it was possible.”
The project required Falcke to argue his case for 20 years, and he eventually got funding for it — a cool 40 million EUR (nearly $45 million).
What do we know about the black hole photos?
The numbers associated with the black hole defy the imagination and scarcely count as conceivable.
We know that the black hole is in a distant galaxy called M87, roughly 500 million trillion kilometers away, and that the photo was taken with the help of no less than eight telescopes around the world.
The black hole itself is estimated to be three million times the size of Earth (40 billion km across).
Where can I find more info?
The findings were published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, an express scientific journal that allows astrophysicists to rapidly publish short notices of significant original research. This means you’ll not only be able to keep up with this story, but also with any ongoing developments.
What have we learned?
According to Dr. Falcke, black holes are one of the most challenging celestial bodies from a research standpoint — but also the most rewarding:
“Although they are relatively simple objects, black holes raise some of the most complex questions about the nature of space and time, and ultimately of our existence,” he said.
Though there is still much to learn, these black hole photos propel us further in our understanding of the cosmos than we’ve ever gone before.
Feature image provided via EHT Collaboration