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The first image of a black hole has been revealed!!

Meet the black hole that resides at the center of the galaxy M87, located about 59 million light years away! It’s 100 billion km in diameter is 6.5 billion solar masses!! And it’s DOPE!!! Thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope, which is an array of many radio telescopes spread throughout Earth, this image officially confirms Einstein’s equations which calculated and predicted black holes in the Theory of General Relativity. This image is the final confirmation that black holes reside at the centers of galaxies and are what fuels things like quasars and active galactic nuclei.

The first-ever image of a black hole was released Wednesday by a consortium of researchers, showing the “black hole at the center of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon.”

With black holes being so dense and having a strong gravitational pull, they spin and attract nearby matter which accumulate around the black hole known as an event horizon. Approaching closer and closer to the center, the matter in the event horizon will eventually fall into the black hole never to come out again. The event horizon is made up of so much illuminated matter, stars and stuff, which is what you see glowing in this image with the shadow of the black hole at the center of it all. Typically the illuminated matter in the event horizon is how astronomers detect where a black hole is, and of course its gravity bending and warping the fabric of space.

Observations from the Event Horizon Telescope of the supermassive black hole at the center of the elliptical galaxy M87, for four different days. [EHT Collaboration et al 2019]

Now what’s even COOLER is that in this image you can actually see the direction in which it’s rotating!! Black holes are spinning due to the collapse of matter in the area of where the black hole formed, or likely when a massive start died and collapsed. It is more illuminated along the lower region of the image and by combining this with earlier observations of the jets of M87 being at an angle of 17 degrees relative to our line of sight, it’s likely that M87’s black hole spins CLOCKWISE from our point of view.

NOW HOW IN THE WORLD DID THEY TAKE THIS PIC THO?? Astronomers combined 2 years of data collected from 8 radio telescopes and 6 mountains and 4 continents … talk about COLLAB! So a huge network of radio antennas, connected called the Very Long Baseline Interferometer (VLBI) all together called the Event Horizon Telescope created this image. They observed the Sagittarius and Virgo black holes on and off for 10 days in April of 2017.

The eight stations of the EHT 2017 campaign over six geographic locations. [EHT Collaboration et al 2019]

This is all so exciting, but what’s next to come is going to be even more! What we have to look forward to includes: 1. An image of Sagittarius A, the black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. 2. Sharper images of M87’s black hole. 3. More information on the event horizon and the stuff falling into the black hole. This is an exciting time for space and I hope you feel the same way!!!