Astronomers have captured the first image of a black hole, heralding a revolution in our understanding of the universe’s most enigmatic objects.
The picture shows a halo of dust and gas, tracing the outline of a colossal black hole, at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, 55 million light years from Earth.
The black hole itself – a cosmic trapdoor from which neither light nor matter can escape – is unseeable. But the latest observations take astronomers right to its threshold for the first time, illuminating the event horizon beyond which all known physical laws collapse.
The breakthrough image was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a network of eight radio telescopes spanning locations from Antarctica to Spain and Chile, in an effort involving more than 200 scientists.
Sheperd Doeleman, Event Horizon Telescope Director and Harvard University senior research fellow said: “Black holes are the most mysterious objects in the universe. We have seen what we thought was unseeable. We have taken a picture of a black hole.”
The image gives the first direct glimpse of a black hole’s accretion disk, a fuzzy doughnut-shaped ring of gas and dust that steadily “feeds” the monster within.