By Benjamin Hess
On April 10, the first ever image of a black hole was released by Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (ETH), a group of over 200 scientists from across the globe who worked together to create a virtual Earth-sized telescope. It might seem strange that scientists have only just now managed to achieve this feat, but it is surprisingly difficult to photograph something that is 500 million trillion kilometers away. Not to mention the black hole in question is three million times larger than Earth.
This monumental achievement resulted from eight telescopes positioned around the globe working in tandem. Scientists essentially created an Earth-sized telescope powerful enough to resolve a clear image of the black hole, a feat which could revolutionize our knowledge of astrophysics as it enables us to gather more precise images and data than ever before.
A black hole is an object in space that is so large and dense that nothing can escape its gravitational pull — not even light. The point at which light can no longer escape is called the event horizon, from which ETH takes its name.
Far more than causing entertainment, the image confirms what theoretical models predicted black holes would look like, including the strange, bright penumbra surrounding them. In addition, the electromagnetic waves that were captured to produce the image provides important information for future research as scientists try to answer questions about these powerful giants, such as how the bright rings form and what happens when something enters a black hole.
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