Scientists have made history by capturing the first ever image of a black hole, and the results have the internet reeling.
The photo of a black hole was released on Wednesday by Maunakea Observatories and the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, according to a report by CBS News. The image shows a blurry ring of light surrounding a dark circle. Technically speaking, this is the event horizon of the black hole — a point in space from which no light can escape. Scientists thought that capturing an image of it might be impossible until now.
"We have seen what we thought was unseeable," said radio astronomer Shep Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope project. "We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole."
This black hole is reportedly located in the constellation Virgo, about 55 million light years away from Earth. It is massive, with 6.5-billion-solar-masses all crammed into a space about the size of a single solar system.
The image was taken not visually, but with radio telescopes from around the world. The Event Horizon project used data from a huge network of radio telescopes to assemble this single image, supporting Einstein's general theory of relativity.
"Today, general relativity has passed another test," said the University of Arizona's Daniel Marrone. "The object at the heart of M-87 is a black hole like those described by general relativity."
Computer scientist Katie Bouman and her awesome stack of hard drives for #EHTblackhole image data 😍 — reminds me of Margaret Hamilton and her Apollo Guidance Computer source code. 👩🏽🔬 pic.twitter.com/MgOXiDCAKi— Flora Graham (@floragraham) April 10, 2019
While scientists marveled over the achievement of the image, it made its way to the laymen on social media as well. Reactions ranged from pure awe to light-hearted jokes as people tried to make sense of the historic photo.
Many spent the morning praising the minds behind the new radio telescope image, particularly computer scientist Katie Bouman. Bouman began developing the algorithm for the image three years ago while in grad school at MIT. Others pointed out the great minds that laid the groundwork, including Stephen Hawking, who passed away just last year.0comments
Others wasted no time in comparing the black hole to other things — notably, the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings series. They joked that the image was a bad omen for humanity, though hopefully 55 million light years is far enough away to make us safe.
Scientists spent the morning discussing the big announcement at news conferences around the world on Wednesday morning. It was considered an achievement on the same level as the discovery of the Higgs boson particle in 2012. So far, the implications of the black hole photo are still being distilled.