The very first picture of a black hole is here, finally.
In a major breakthrough, astronomers on Wednesday unveiled the highly anticipated image which shows a dark core, encircled by a bright orange halo of white-hot gas and plasma.
It was revealed at a series of simultaneous news conferences around the world on Wednesday.
The supermassive black hole in the photo is 50 million light years away in a galaxy known as M87. Capturing the image at such a distance is comparable to photographing a pebble on the surface of the Moon.
“It’s a distance that we could have barely imagined,” Frederic Gueth, an astronomer at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and co-author of the studies detailing the findings told the AFP news agency.
The unprecedented image – so often imagined in science and science fiction – has been analysed in six studies co-authored by 200 experts from 60-odd institutions and published on Wednesday in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
No single telescope is powerful enough to capture an image of a black hole, one of the star-devouring entities scattered throughout the universe and obscured by impenetrable shields of gravity.
Thus, over several days in April 2017, eight radio telescopes in Hawaii, Arizona, Spain, Mexico, Chile and the South Pole zeroed in on M87 as well as Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.
Researchers said that Sagittarius A* was too “active” to capture a clear picture, but the M87 blackhole – which measures 40 billion km across – was more photogenic.
NASA described the image as a “historic feat” in a Twitter post on Wednesday.
In a historic feat by @EHTelescope & @NSF, a black hole image has been captured for the 1st time. Several of our missions observed the same black hole using different light wavelengths and collected data to understand the black hole’s environment. Details: https://t.co/WOjLdY76ve pic.twitter.com/4PhH1bfHxc
— NASA (@NASA) April 10, 2019
Al Jazeera and news agencies