The First Image of a Black Hole

On April 10, the Event Horizon Telescope Project introduced to the world the first picture ever of a black hole. Although black holes have been studied for many years, there was not any real image of one until now.

“Black holes are hard to image. A lot of what we know comes from the emissions on a large scale and inferring on what’s going on,” said GCC Astronomy teacher Sally Watt.

A black hole’s gravity is so strong that not even light can be seen. It passes through and disappears, which makes it nearly impossible to capture an image of it. In order to capture the image, the Event Host Telescope searched for the silhouette of the horizon. This allowed the telescope to capture the striking image.

According to Mike Wall, the image is one step closer to proving Einstein’s theory of relativity. The way the image was achieved was through collaboration of several observatories and telescopes to create a large radio disk that was almost the size of earth. They used 8 observatory stations that collaborated in over the span of 10 years.

The telescopes that were used were spread out from different locations across the planet, which made it increasingly difficult for astronomers to get a clear view at the same time. There was no way to collect the data in one telescope—it would never be big enough.

What made the project even more difficult was they had to have the data recorded at the exact millisecond, or the image would not be accurate.

To ensure the data came in at the same time the astronomers used hydrogen maser atomic clocks, which allowed them to store a lot of data coming in at an extraordinary rate.

The project had a diverse team of scientists working together to capture the image. This project has given credit to several women in science, especially Dr. Katie Bouman, an MIT graduate that worked on the project.

Bouman’s picture has circulated the internet, giving the project a face and women credit for this project.

“Having her in prominent news, showing women are scientists is fabulous,” Watt said.

Watt also believes that the finding will attract more students to the field of science.

“It’s in pop culture, which makes science cool which makes people interested in science,” Watt said.

As there may be an increase in science majors, hopefully there will be more groundbreaking findings in the future.

“As you gaze into the void for the first time, one thing I hope will resonate is that this is the future of astronomy—of all scientific fields. The Event Horizon Project demonstrates that we need more collaboration, more convergence, and more shared resources to build instruments and find new applications for the ones we already have,” said National Science Foundation Director France Cordova.

Event Horizon Telescope