Scientists unveiled the first-ever image of a black hole and its shadow located in a galaxy far, far away.
The black hole was photographed by a network of eight telescopes across the the world known as The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.
Black holes are extraordinary cosmic objects with enormous masses but extremely compact sizes. The presence of these objects affects their environment in extreme ways, warping spacetime and super-heating any surrounding material.
“We’ve exposed a part of our universe we’ve never seen before, We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole,” Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at Harvard University who led the effort to capture the image, said at a press conference Wednesday.
The black hole resides 55 million light-years from Earth in a galaxy known as Messier 87 and has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the sun, according to the National Science Foundation.
“When you work in this field for a long time you get a lot of intermediate results,” Doeleman said Wednesday when asked what he felt when he first saw the image. “We saw something so true…it was astonishment and wonder and I think any scientist in any field will know that feeling, to see something for the first time.”
The effort of capturing the photo is detailed in a series of six papers published in a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.