Written by Atharv Balaji, a grade 5 student
On 10th April 2019, scientists at the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration – which is an international collaboration that captures images of black holes using a virtual telescope -released the first-ever picture of a black hole.
Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHT)
What’s a black hole?
A black hole, in simple words, is a massive dead star whose strong gravitational force pulls everything nearby into itself. The pull is so strong that not even light can escape it.
A black hole has, what’s called an accretion disc – which is a flat band, or ring of superheated gasses and dust whirling around a black hole at immense speeds (that look like a disc). It produces radiation which reveals its position. The event horizon is a boundary of a black hole. Once the event horizon is crossed there is no turning back.
You can’t even observe across the event horizon! How do you know if there’s a black hole? Well, if you see objects orbiting nothing, there you are. There is a black hole in the center.
Why is this the first image?
When you take a photo of a heavenly object, the light from it is recorded on a medium. As we already know, the light can’t escape a black hole so when you take a picture, nothing will be recorded.
But, scientists at Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) found a way to capture the first image of a black hole, called Powehi, in the galaxy M87. The photo was released on 10th April, 2019 by the EHT collaboration.
The Event Horizon Telescope is an international collaboration of observatories linking radio dishes to form a virtual Earth-sized telescope. The EHT won the National Science Foundation Diamond Achievement Award, along with many others, for this picture.
Through their observations, EHT has learned that the black hole is 55 million light-years away from Earth and 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun and has a clockwise spin (that’s why one side of the ring is brighter than the other).
EHT is now studying Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way. This image opens up a new window onto the study of black holes, their event horizons, and gravity.
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