The first photograph of a black hole captivates the scientific world

By KAITLYN SUTOW

Recently there has been a major breakthrough in science; the first ever picture of a black hole was captured April 10. This is a very big deal for astronomers and the way black holes are visualized because before this there were only imaginative art pieces or computer-generated images. The image was captured using an EHT, an event horizon telescope, which used eight observatories and the help of 200 people to put it together.


The image that was released depicted an orange, oval-shaped ring with a dark circle in the center of its galaxy, Messier 87. Messier 87, better known as M87, is about 55 million light years from Earth and is a part of the Virgo constellation.

According to Dennis Overbye, a science writer specializing in physics and cosmology, the black hole appears to be several billion times larger than our sun and is unleashing a large mass of energy 5,000 light years into space
(via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Black_hole_-_Messier_87_crop_max_res.jpg)

One of the most fascinating things about this discovery is that some of Einstein’s theories were able to be proved.

Rafi Letzter,  a multimedia journalist for livescience.com who is passionate about policy, science and culture, addressed how the EHT team believes that in the near future they will be able to capture higher quality images and even live movie of the black hole and see how it moves and engulfs mass.

M87 is not the only black hole on the EHT team’s radar. They are currently observing Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy. This black hole is 1000 times less massive than M87 but is still just as complex. Because of the size difference, the black hole moves 1000 times faster, making it that much harder to capture an image of it.

In order to get an image of Sagittarius A*, scientists would need to develop a new algorithm to collect all the needed data to create an image. They would then need another new algorithm to compare the data chunks to see how the black hole changed and moved.

According to Marina Koren, a staff writer at The Atlantic, the first person to see this image after the copious amount of work that was put into the project was Katie Bouman, a postdoctoral at MIT and a member of the EHT team. Bouman spread rapidly across the internet after the news of the black hole picture was released.


Bouman stands as a role model for young girls who are aspiring to go into a typically male-dominated career. Despite being a role model, she received much hate for her discovery, including people saying she was a fraud and did not actually discover the image.  

In conclusion, with this discovery, the way we learn about and research black holes will be very different in the future, and it is the first step towards more extensive and detailed exploration on the topic.


Sources:

https://www.livescience.com/65246-first-black-hole-movie.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/04/katie-bouman-black-hole/587137/

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