On Wednesday morning, the world got to see something never seen before. The existence of the “unseeable”, put forward by the great Albert Einstein in his ‘Theory of General Relativity’ over a century ago, has now been proven. Scientists announced a milestone in astrophysics when they released the first-ever photo of a black hole, captured by the Event Horizon Telescope.
Black holes, which have never been photographed before, are technically impossible to see because everything – even light – is drawn in by their gravitational pull.
“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago,” said astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA), Harvard & Smithsonian. “This is the strongest evidence we have to date of the existence of black holes.”
The photo captures a ring-like structure with a dark middle, which is the shadow of the black hole, at the center of a galaxy known as Messier 87. The black hole, which is highlighted by radiating hot gas orbiting around it, is about 55 million light years from Earth. That means the image shows what the black hole looked like that many years ago.
Its mass is 6 1/2 billion times that of the sun and it was in a “modest active state” at the time of the photo, according to Sera Markoff, a member of the Event Horizon Telescope Science Council. Black holes are thought to be the “driving engines” of galaxies, “affecting the largest scales of the universe,” she added.