The Black Hole

A Space Oddity


On April 10, 2019, astronomers made history when they revealed the first-ever photograph of a phenomenon that is millions of light years away from Earth. According to a National Geographic article, to be able to spot this would be like spotting an orange on the moon from the Earth. Believed to be a portal to an alternate universe, an entrance to a dystopia, or even a time machine, this mysterious space oddity—the black hole—is a favourite topic among scientists and fiction enthusiasts.

A black hole is created when a lot of matter is packed into a very small volume, forming such an intense gravitational pull that the black hole collapses on itself. According to a BBC Science Focus magazine, almost nothing can escape from a black hole, including light. Since black holes are light eaters, they are invisible. Stellar and supermassive black holes can each have a mass of billions of suns. NASA scientists believe that even microscopic black holes—ones the size of atoms—can have the mass of a large mountain. When astronomers photographed a black hole for the first time, the general public may not have been completely impressed by the blurry image, but many scientists, writers, and movie directors truly understood the gravity of the situation.

Millions of black holes exist in the Milky Way galaxy and in other galaxies nearby. The one that scientists recently photographed is called the M87*, which is in the centre of the Messier 87 galaxy. Black holes may be invisible, but scientists can still detect their locations by capturing radio waves that shoot out of the black hole’s accretion disk—a bright cloud of extremely hot gases and other substances. To take a photograph of a black hole millions of light years away from Earth, the Event Horizon Telescope’s astronomers needed an observatory as big as the Earth. Since building a planet-sized telescope would have been a real bear, the astronomers instead used eight telescopes around the world. The radio waves observed by each telescope were put together, having very similar results to that of a planet-sized observatory.

Astronomers have captured the first-ever photograph of an invisible miracle, proving to humanity that black holes really do exists; an article in The Guardian states, “Seeing is believing”. The first photograph of a black hole is not only a ground breaking achievement, but also an important piece of evidence that will allow humans to uncover the secrets of black holes: what would happen if you get too close, how space and time are affected by them, and what they lead to. Had Einstein been alive, he would have had tears of joy in his eyes!