At six simultaneous press conferences around the globe, astronomers on Wednesday announced they had accomplished the seemingly impossible: taking a picture of a black hole, a cosmic monster so voracious that light itself cannot escape its clutches.
This historic feat, performed by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)—a planet-spanning network of radio observatories—required more than a decade of effort. The project’s name refers to a black hole’s most defining characteristic, an “event horizon” set by the object’s mass and spin beyond which no infalling material, including light, can ever return...
Once thought to be figments of theorists’ wildest imaginings, black holes are now known to be crucial arbiters of cosmic structure, profoundly affecting the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies across the universe. The one in M87, for instance, is devouring a whirling accretion disk of material, which just outside the event horizon powers a star-scouring jet of intense radiation and relativistic particles blasting some 5,000 light-years out from the galaxy’s core.
Analyses of the image—published in a series of six papers in the Astrophysical Journal Letters—confirm that within the limits of the EHT’s present sensitivity the shape and behavior of M87’s black hole fits Einstein’s predictions.
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