For the first time, an image of a black hole has been unveiled by the Event Horizon Telescope, but it’s not what you might think. Here’s why.
Just the FAQs, USA TODAY
Scientists have spent decades studying them, but Wednesday provides our first-ever image of a black hole.
The National Science Foundation hosted a morning press conference featuring scientists from around the world to release the picture, albeit fuzzy, of a black hole.
The image was captured using the Event Horizon Telescope, an international collaboration created to show a black hole.
Here’s everything you need to know about black holes.
What is a black hole?
They are collapsed stars with gravity so strong not even light can escape. According to NASA, because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes, which is why scientists use special tools like telescopes to spot them.
The National Science Foundation says there are four types of black holes, ranging from tiny primordial black holes which emerged right after the Big Bang, to supermassive black holes like the one captured in the image released Wednesday which are way more substantial than our sun.
When were they first discovered?
Albert Einstein first predicted black holes as part of his theory of relativity in 1915. According to the Department of Astronomy at Cornell University, physicist John Wheeler was first credited with using the term black hole in 1967. Before then, black holes were sometimes referred to as “dark stars” or “frozen stars.”
How do scientists learn about black holes?
NASA said since researchers can’t “see” a black hole, they use tools to study how strong gravity affects nearby stars and gas. High-energy light is created when a black hole and star are close together, said NASA, and scientists can view it using satellites and telescopes.
How did scientists capture an image of a black hole?
Researchers used the Event Horizon Telescope, a collection of eight telescopes on five different continents specifically designed to peer at black holes. The EHT links the telescopes together to form a virtual telescope the size of Earth.
The EHT takes the radio wave data from all eight telescopes and combines them into the image shown.
So why does it look kinda blurry? Avery Broderick, an astronomy professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, said it’s because the telescopes used reached a “fundamental resolution limit.”
The NSF said in a Medium post because of a black hole’s intense gravity, you can’t capture an image of the actual black hole, but light near the black hole’s “point of no return.”
“What we are seeing is truly the silhouette of a black hole. This is what it is like to stare directly into the void.”
Contributing: Doyle Rice. Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.
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