It is one of the most elusive images in the universe.
Yes, it happened. After years of using computer-generated images, scientists using the Event Horizon telescope have captured the first real image of a black hole. The snapshot of the supermassive black hole in the Messier 87 galaxy (about 55 million light-years away from the night) shows the “shadow” created by the event horizon that curves and sucks light. It also confirms that the black hole is really huge, with a mass of 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. As you can imagine, taking this picture was complicated: it required a global collaboration that was only possible recently.
This image required the connection of eight existing high-altitude telescopes, particularly in Chile and Antarctica, to achieve an angular resolution high enough to capture such a compact object (the event horizon is “only” 24.9 billion kilometers). Extreme distance This very long base interferometry technique also involved the synchronization of atomic clocks and even the use of the Earth’s rotation. The supercomputers of the Max Planck Institute and the Haystack Observatory at MIT had to combine “petabytes” of raw data from the telescopes.
It’s a blurry image, but it confirms what the theory of general relativity has been predicting for decades. It also promises to shed light on black holes. And that should theoretically improve. In the future, the Event Horizon telescope will have a “significantly higher” sensitivity when the Greenland telescope, the NOEMA IRAM observatory and the Kitt Peak telescopes join the network. This is an important milestone in astronomy, and from now on it will only improve.