"We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago", said astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian.
Astronomers believe that images of Sagittarius A, which is a black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, will show a lopsided ring of brightness due to the gravity bending light closer to the black hole.
On Wednesday morning, the world got to see the unseeable. Sure, we thought we knew, thanks to simulations and the now-famous black hole featured in the movie Interstellar.
Located in the constellation Virgo, about 55 million light-years from Earth, this black hole is near the center of a galaxy called M87. Completing the image was an enormous undertaking, involving an global team of scientists, supercomputers and hundreds of terabytes of data. The technique for synchronizing observations effectively turns their network into a huge radio telescope nearly as wide as our planet.
These locations included volcanoes in Hawaii and Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, the Chilean Atacama Desert, and Antarctica.
This is what a black hole looks like.
Black holes, phenomenally dense celestial entities, are extraordinarily hard to observe by their very nature despite their great mass.More news: Mnuchin: Treasury lawyers consulted White House on Trump tax returns
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Black holes are extremely dense celestial bodies containing such strong gravitational fields that even light can not escape their pull.
"I am also a part of the data processing and imaging teams, so was heavily involved in processing/ validating/checking the data and turning them into the images", he told The Star in an email interview. They can vary widely in size and mass.
Supermassive black holes may sound pretty big, but they are actually relatively small in the grand scheme of the universe. Unfortunately, Earth - and the vast majority of the planets in the galaxy - just aren't in the right position to see our galaxy's black hole. That boundary in space is what you're actually seeing, silhouetted by superheated material spinning around the event horizon at almost the speed of light.
If you think this was a huge challenge, you're not wrong: not only was the amount of data big enough to have to be physically shipped to the MIT Haystack observatory but the scientists also had to filter through the noise that was caused by other factors (such as atmospheric humidity) and synchronize the signals from every telescope with absolute precision.
A black hole's gravity creates a funhouse effect where you can see light from both behind the black hole and behind you as the light curves and circles around the black hole. Obtaining an image of a black hole is not as easy as snapping a photo with an ordinary camera.
The incredible feat confirms a key pillar of science - Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity.
The image, assembled from data gathered by eight radio telescopes around the world, shows light and gas swirling around the lip of a supermassive black hole, a monster of the universe whose existence was theorized by Einstein more than a century ago but confirmed only indirectly over the decades.