What does a black hole look like? We're about to find out

A NASA artist's concept illustration shows a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun

After years of work and a whole lot of hype, researchers working with the Event Horizon Telescope project finally unveiled the very first image ever captured of an actual black hole this week.

Taiwan made a significant contribution to an worldwide astronomical project to capture the world's first image of a black hole, as it not only supported operation of radio telescopes synchronized to capture the image but also helped analyze relevant information obtained, Academia Sinica has said. Light gets bent and twisted around by gravity in a freakish funhouse effect as it gets sucked into the abyss along with superheated gas and dust.

SHEPERD DOELEMAN: We have seen what we thought was unseeable. And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exist.

University of Waterloo physicist Avery Broderick, a co-discoverer, declared: "Science fiction has become science fact".

"As with all great discoveries, this is just the beginning", he added, predicting the image would open new avenues for study and research. The observatories, located in Hawaii, Arizona, Chile, Mexico, Spain and Antarctica, individually captured the black hole's radio signals over four nights in April 2017, when the weather was optimal in all six regions.

Dr Greene said: "The image provides the first direct test of Einstein's theory and the strong gravitational field of a black hole and as far we can tell, Einstein once again comes through with flying colours".

This one's "event horizon" - the precipice, or point of no return, where light and matter begin to fall inexorably into the hole - is as big as our entire solar system.

The M87 galaxy is a supergiant about 55 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo. So how did scientists manage to achieve this incredible feat?

"The image has this exquisite beauty in its simplicity", said CfA astrophysicist Michael Johnson, the project's imaging coordinator.

Three US troops, contractor killed in Afghanistan blast
Washington reacted furiously, with United States officials reportedly refusing to attend meetings in which Mohib was present. He said Afghans want peace, but "they don't want to live the way that the Taliban want them to live".

And in an incredibly wonderful twist of events, the black hole discovery appears to confirm the theory of relativity proposed by Albert Einstein a century ago.

The scientists said Einstein's theory predicted the shape of the shadow would be nearly a flawless circle - as it turned out to be.

Black holes are spatial phenomena that have tickled human curiosity for quite some time.

The photo shows a bright ring of superheated gasses falling into the perfectly circular hole, which is the event horizon beyond which not even light can escape.

After all, black holes are among the most powerful forces and biggest mysteries in the universe.

But, through global collaboration and an array of instruments, the team built a virtual telescope essentially as large as Earth itself, allowing them to peer into Messier 87, which lies 55 million light years away, to see the black hole at its center.

The project cost $50 million to $60 million, with $26 million of that coming from the National Science Foundation. That's the supermassive black hole at the center of the distant Messier 87 galaxy, the first-ever image of a real black hole. The new image shows this black hole. The presence of black holes affects the surrounding environment in extreme ways. It took two years to collect and analyze the 5 petabyes of data collected from the telescope network observations. Completing the image was an enormous undertaking, involving an worldwide team of scientists, supercomputers and hundreds of terabytes of data. The scientists are now processing the data collected by the telescopes and hope to release a photo in the very near future.

"Like a time-lapse exposure, this slowly builds up an image of even a very dim source", the NSF says.

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