On Wednesday, the Event Horizon Telescope released the first-ever image of a black hole, a type of collapsed star so massive that not even light can escape its gravity. The historic moment was shared by scientists spread across seven simultaneous news conferences around the world.
The image represents the first direct record — an image composed from a series of radio telescopic images — of what had been implied by theories and indirect observation.
As the PBS NewsHour reported Tuesday, the Event Horizon Telescope is a two-year-old, international collaboration bent on capturing direct pictures of black holes. The international collective of scientists joined forces and instruments around the earth to take pictures of two black holes located at the center of our galaxy, about 25,000 light years away, and a neighboring galaxy, about 55 million light years distant.
Scientists at eight radio telescopes observatories — stretching from Hawaii to Greenland to the French Alps to Antarctica — captured images of one black hole in our Milky Way — known as Sagittarius A* — and one in a nearby galaxy called M87, over the course of a week in April 2017. (The PBS NewsHour visited one in Chile when the project was still under discussion).
By linking the radio telescopes together digitally, the scientists created, in essence, a planet-sized radio telescope built to scan massive parts of the skies.
The concept of black holes has captivated scientists for two centuries. Despite decades of indirect evidence supporting their existence, black holes have never been captured by camera — until now. Scientists hope to use the image to probe the origins of our universe.
This story will be updated. Editor’s note: The Event Horizon Telescope was funded in part by the National Science Foundation, which also supports the PBS NewsHour.