Through a historic global collaboration, scientists have taken a photograph of an invisible phenomenon, the mysterious black hole. Black holes are described in sci-fi movies as monstrous vacuums in space so strong that light cannot escape. Stories even go as far as to say that if you were ever caught in a black hole your body would be stretched and pulled into thin spaghetti.
What exactly are black holes and why is it so difficult to get a picture? A press release by the European Commission notes that black holes are extremely compressed cosmic objects (imagine stuffing all your belongings into a small cabinet), with a lot of mass in a very small region. These black holes affect their surroundings in extreme ways by warping space time and superheating any material that falls into them. In April, a team of international scientists for the first ever observed a black hole and took the first image of the occurrence with an Event Horizon Telescope.
Why is this one image a scientific breakthrough? According to many astronomers and physicists, including Albert Einstein, black holes are invisible. The only way to observe them is to study and monitor their surroundings – light emitting materials surround the black hole which provides an outline of the black hole. The Event Horizon Telescope was able to observe the outline of the black hole thanks to the light emitting materials and take a photo of the black hole. That is how the world’s first image of a black hole was taken. The National Science Foundation, describes the achievement as a momentous and huge day in astrophysics and sciences around the world.
If you want to learn more about the universe and all its complexities and mysteries, visit your local science centre. As the late physicist Stephen Hawking once said, “Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.” – B.P.
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