What's actually going on in that cryptic black hole photo?


The first-ever image of a black hole. Image: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al. / National Science Foundation
By Mark Kaufman2019-04-10 21:37:45 UTC

“We have now seen the unseeable.”

These are the words spoken by astrophysicist Avery Broderick on Wednesday morning, one of some 200 scientists of the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration who captured humanity’s first image of a black hole — a zone of space so gravitationally powerful that whatever light falls in can’t possibly escape. “Black holes are gravity run amok,” said Broderick.

Yet, we now have a picture of “the unseeable.”

More precisely, we can see a prominent ring of super-heated gas around the very edge of a black hole. This final boundary between space and the black hole, the point of no return, is called the “event horizon.” 

“What this brings to the table is the event horizon,” astrophysicist Erin Macdonald, who had no role in the project, said in an interview. “It’s the last possible point that we could see until you’re so close to the black hole that nothing can escape.”

So, although the black hole is itself invisible — a black mass that consumes light — we can see exactly where this giant

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