The first-ever image of a black hole has been released

midian182

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Staff member
What just happened? The first-ever image of a black hole has been revealed by astronomers. The picture shows the dust and gas halo surrounding the enormous object, which is 6.5 billion times more massive than our sun.

The supermassive black hole is located at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy, which is 55 million light years from Earth. The image was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which is made up of eight radio telescopes placed across five continents, and was revealed by researchers at a press conference earlier today. A conventional telescope would have had to be the size of earth to take this picture.

“Scientists have obtained the first image of a black hole, using Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87,” the Event Horizon Project (EHT) said in a statement. “The image shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole.”

The image shows the black hole’s accretion disk, a donut-shaped ring of gas and dust that gets swallowed by the hole. EHT detects radiation emitted by particles within the disk that are heated to billions of degrees as they swirl around the phenomenon at close to the speed of light, reports The Guardian.

Image credit: The Guardian

The observations took place across one week in 2017 and were coordinated using atomic clocks accurate to within one second every 100 million years. The amount of data gathered is enormous—just one night can produce as much as a year’s worth of experiments at The Large Hadron Collider. The information was recorded onto discs and physically sent out to be analyzed by a supercomputer for months.

“We are giving humanity its first view of a black hole — a one-way door out of our universe,” said Sheperd Doeleman of the Haystack Observatory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who is the EHT’s lead astronomer. “This is a landmark in astronomy, an unprecedented scientific feat accomplished by a team of more than 200 researchers.”

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yRaz

Posts: 4,412   +5,142
Why did they use a galaxy so far away? 55 million light years? The milky way is only 120,000 light years across with the Andromeda galaxy being around 1.2 million light years away.

I'm sure they have their reasons, but it isn't like galaxies are rare, we have over 100 within a million light tears of us.
 

Richard M

Posts: 17   +61
Why did they use a galaxy so far away? 55 million light years? The milky way is only 120,000 light years across with the Andromeda galaxy being around 1.2 million light years away.

I'm sure they have their reasons, but it isn't like galaxies are rare, we have over 100 within a million light tears of us.

Most likely due to the viewing angle. I would think they would need a galaxy that we can look at from either top down or bottom up. If you look at a galaxy from the side then all the stars and dust get in the way.

That is why we have better images of other galaxies then we have of the Milky Way. Since we are in the same plane as most of the other objects it makes it hard to see when we look towards the middle.
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,412   +5,142
Most likely due to the viewing angle. I would think they would need a galaxy that we can look at from either top down or bottom up. If you look at a galaxy from the side then all the stars and dust get in the way.

That is why we have better images of other galaxies then we have of the Milky Way. Since we are in the same plane as most of the other objects it makes it hard to see when we look towards the middle.
Actually, the angle doesn't really matter, it looks almost the same regardless of how you look at it. And we like radio astronomy because it can see through the dust and gas of galaxies, it's how we discovered the black hole of our own milky way. We used radio telescopes to track the orbit of stars around the black hole in alphacentari.

Further, super massive black holes are covered by thousands of light years of gas and dust in all directions.
 

J spot

Posts: 239   +159
Why did they use a galaxy so far away? 55 million light years? The milky way is only 120,000 light years across with the Andromeda galaxy being around 1.2 million light years away.

I'm sure they have their reasons, but it isn't like galaxies are rare, we have over 100 within a million light tears of us.

This blackhole is so massive that it's larger to us at 55 million light years away than our own super massive black hole at the center of our galaxy 25,000 to 27,000 light years away.
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,412   +5,142
This blackhole is so massive that it's larger to us at 55 million light years away than our own super massive black hole at the center of our galaxy 25,000 to 27,000 light years away.
it's not that much more massive and the inverse square law says you're wrong. I've been following this story closely since the begininng and they originally were going to picture the Millky Ways' own Super massive black hole in Sagittarius A
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,699   +6,639
Why did they use a galaxy so far away? 55 million light years? The milky way is only 120,000 light years across with the Andromeda galaxy being around 1.2 million light years away.

I'm sure they have their reasons, but it isn't like galaxies are rare, we have over 100 within a million light tears of us.
In the end, M87 was more photogenic. Like a fidgety child, Sag A* was too "active" to capture a clear picture, the scientists said.
https://phys.org/news/2019-04-astronomers-unveil-photo-black-hole.html
Looking toward Sagittarius A*, there is a lot of matter that one has to look through - that may be part of the reason that it was noisier and harder to image.

As to the smaller objects, they are, well, smaller. Both "Sag A* and this one are super-massive black holes and, therefore, larger, meaning their angular size (as viewed from Earth) is much bigger than the smaller objects, and, most likely, making them much easier to image and get a clear picture, IMO. As I see it, it is kind of like trying to split some closely-spaced double stars (they have a small, angular size as viewed from Earth) in variously-sized telescopes. A 5" might not split some, but a 12" or larger would.
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,412   +5,142
https://phys.org/news/2019-04-astronomers-unveil-photo-black-hole.html
Looking toward Sagittarius A*, there is a lot of matter that one has to look through - that may be part of the reason that it was noisier and harder to image.

As to the smaller objects, they are, well, smaller. Both "Sag A* and this one are super-massive black holes and, therefore, larger, meaning their angular size (as viewed from Earth) is much bigger than the smaller objects, and, most likely, making them much easier to image and get a clear picture, IMO. As I see it, it is kind of like trying to split some closely-spaced double stars (they have a small, angular size as viewed from Earth) in variously-sized telescopes. A 5" might not split some, but a 12" or larger would.
As an astronomer I can apperciapp that. It is understandable that Sag A might not be photogenic, okay. However, 55 million light years is A HELL OF A LONG HAUL. Super massive black holes are not uncommon, everything we know points to there being atleast one in the center of every galaxy. 6 million solar masses, if my memory serves me, is fairly typical in the SMBH range.

Using the inverse square law, something astronomers are very familiar with, this object has as stupidly small angular distance if it's 55 million light years away. It's almost 5 orders of magnitude smaller than the SMBH in Andromeda if going by angular distance alone.

Now this project was run by brilliant people and had hundreds of millions of dollars backing it so I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation of why this SMBH was chosen. However, given its distance from earth Earth and the wide avalibiavaility of SMBH in our local super cluster the simple fact that "SAG A doesn't look pretty" isn't good enough. And inthoucht SAG A would be cooler to see as it's axis of rotation would make it look more like the black holes in interstellar.

Arguably, we could learn more about general relatively from a pick of SAG A on its axis than we could of M87 from 55millon light years away.
 

elementalSG

Posts: 270   +478
As an astronomer I can apperciapp that. It is understandable that Sag A might not be photogenic, okay. However, 55 million light years is A HELL OF A LONG HAUL. Super massive black holes are not uncommon, everything we know points to there being atleast one in the center of every galaxy. 6 million solar masses, if my memory serves me, is fairly typical in the SMBH range.

Using the inverse square law, something astronomers are very familiar with, this object has as stupidly small angular distance if it's 55 million light years away. It's almost 5 orders of magnitude smaller than the SMBH in Andromeda if going by angular distance alone.

Now this project was run by brilliant people and had hundreds of millions of dollars backing it so I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation of why this SMBH was chosen. However, given its distance from earth Earth and the wide avalibiavaility of SMBH in our local super cluster the simple fact that "SAG A doesn't look pretty" isn't good enough. And inthoucht SAG A would be cooler to see as it's axis of rotation would make it look more like the black holes in interstellar.

Arguably, we could learn more about general relatively from a pick of SAG A on its axis than we could of M87 from 55millon light years away.

Just a thought, as I am at best an amateur astronomer, do you think it might have something to do with having to sync all 8 radio telescopes on 5 different continents? Something like needing a black hole where all radio telescopes would be able to point and capture imaging data at the same moment in time? Maybe it wouldn't be easy (or even potentially possible) with some of the other closer black hole candidates?
 

J spot

Posts: 239   +159
it's not that much more massive and the inverse square law says you're wrong. I've been following this story closely since the begininng and they originally were going to picture the Millky Ways' own Super massive black hole in Sagittarius A

This is what I read:

"The team is also imaging the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Odd though it may sound, that is harder than getting an image from a distant galaxy 55 million light-years away. This is because, for some unknown reason, the "ring of fire" around the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way is smaller and dimmer.
"

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47873592

And from their Wikipedia page, this black hole, Messier 87 has a mass of 2.4 billion suns, while Sagittarius A* has a mass of 4.1 million suns.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,699   +6,639
As an astronomer I can apperciapp that. It is understandable that Sag A might not be photogenic, okay. However, 55 million light years is A HELL OF A LONG HAUL. Super massive black holes are not uncommon, everything we know points to there being atleast one in the center of every galaxy. 6 million solar masses, if my memory serves me, is fairly typical in the SMBH range.

Using the inverse square law, something astronomers are very familiar with, this object has as stupidly small angular distance if it's 55 million light years away. It's almost 5 orders of magnitude smaller than the SMBH in Andromeda if going by angular distance alone.

Now this project was run by brilliant people and had hundreds of millions of dollars backing it so I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation of why this SMBH was chosen. However, given its distance from earth Earth and the wide avalibiavaility of SMBH in our local super cluster the simple fact that "SAG A doesn't look pretty" isn't good enough. And inthoucht SAG A would be cooler to see as it's axis of rotation would make it look more like the black holes in interstellar.

Arguably, we could learn more about general relatively from a pick of SAG A on its axis than we could of M87 from 55millon light years away.
I remember your interest in astronomy after I so rudely suggested that you keep your web camera for astrophotography - because of its red sensitivity, of course. :D

The articles at phys.org tend to be limited in the information that they post - they tend to gear more toward people interested in science rather than scientists. However, the link that I posted has links to the original six papers that were published on this research. It looks like for at least the first one, you are able to download the PDF for free - so assuming that you can get the rest for free, you might find a more detailed explanation and an answer to your question in substantially more detail.

That said, from what it said in the phys.org article, it sounds like this was no easy feat - all six telescopes had to have a view of the object at the same time.

Also, with an interferometer, the net result is the resolving power of a telescope of equivalent size, however, it has nowhere near the sensitivity of a filled-aperture telescope of equivalent size. That is, a filled-aperture scope would be able to detect objects that are significantly fainter than a interferometer can detect. So perhaps that has something to do with their choice of targets, too.
Just a thought, as I am at best an amateur astronomer, do you think it might have something to do with having to sync all 8 radio telescopes on 5 different continents? Something like needing a black hole where all radio telescopes would be able to point and capture imaging data at the same moment in time? Maybe it wouldn't be easy (or even potentially possible) with some of the other closer black hole candidates?
See above. BTW - I'm at best an amateur astronomer, too. Curiosity is what counts!
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,412   +5,142
Just a thought, as I am at best an amateur astronomer, do you think it might have something to do with having to sync all 8 radio telescopes on 5 different continents? Something like needing a black hole where all radio telescopes would be able to point and capture imaging data at the same moment in time? Maybe it wouldn't be easy (or even potentially possible) with some of the other closer black hole candidates?

They have about an hour where all the radio telescopes can view the same part of the sky at the same time due to the Earth's rotation and orbit around the sun so they all have to take an image at the same time. What black hole they want to image might only have a few hours over a few days a year where all the telescopes can view it at the same time.

This is what I read:

"The team is also imaging the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Odd though it may sound, that is harder than getting an image from a distant galaxy 55 million light-years away. This is because, for some unknown reason, the "ring of fire" around the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way is smaller and dimmer.
"

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47873592

And from their Wikipedia page, this black hole, Messier 87 has a mass of 2.4 billion suns, while Sagittarius A* has a mass of 4.1 million suns.
That actually makes a lot of sense, I didn't dive that deep into it. That's actually interesting to know. I'm sure in the coming years they'll plan on taking pictures of ones closer to use but I guess this was the easiest for a proof of concept and first light type image.
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 2,147   +2,587
TechSpot Elite
Lessee… M87's SBH just under 4 orders of magnitude more massive and just over 4 orders of magnitude farther away than Sag A*. So the sensitivity is comparable assuming everything else is also the same. Well, we know that Sag A* is relatively quiescent right now and we know that the SBH in M87 is relatively active seeing as it has that photogenic jet being ejected from it.

So it seems quite reasonable that they would choose M87's SBH as the first target if it's known that Sag A*'s area is "messier" (pun!) and would therefore provide a lower signal to noise ratio.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,739   +7,678
....[ ]....Now this project was run by brilliant people and had hundreds of millions of dollars backing it so I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation of why this SMBH was chosen. However, given its distance from earth Earth and the wide avalibiavaility of SMBH in our local super cluster the simple fact that "SAG A doesn't look pretty" isn't good enough. And inthoucht SAG A would be cooler to see as it's axis of rotation would make it look more like the black holes in interstellar....[ ]...
My prince, next time get a servant or two to proofread that for you.

Just so we might appreciate the consummate brilliance behind the nonsensical letter clusters.
 
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wiyosaya

Posts: 7,699   +6,639
Lessee… M87's SBH just under 4 orders of magnitude more massive and just over 4 orders of magnitude farther away than Sag A*. So the sensitivity is comparable assuming everything else is also the same. Well, we know that Sag A* is relatively quiescent right now and we know that the SBH in M87 is relatively active seeing as it has that photogenic jet being ejected from it.

So it seems quite reasonable that they would choose M87's SBH as the first target if it's known that Sag A*'s area is "messier" (pun!) and would therefore provide a lower signal to noise ratio.
Maybe. If the four orders of magnitude more massive means it is ingesting four orders of magnitude more of its surrounding mass than Sag A*, assuming perfect conversion, the intensity of the of the emitted radiation would be approximately four orders of magnitude greater by E=mc^2. By the inverse square law, M87 would have to be 16 orders of magnitude further away than it is for the intensity of the radiation reaching Earth to be the same as that reaching the Earth from Sag A*.

So, assuming I am not making too many ass_umptions, and I actually know what I am talking about, :dizzy: the intensity of the radiation from M87's SMBH reaching Earth may very well be on the order of two orders of magnitude greater than the intensity of the radiation reaching Earth from Sag A*, and like any brighter object, it would also be easier to photograph.
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,412   +5,142
My prince, next time get a servant or two to proofread that for you.

Just so we might appreciate the consummate brilliance behind the nonsensical letter clusters.
my most trusted servant, those are not type-o's but instead just my creative writing. I use my brilliance like shakespear to make up works that more appropriated mean what I'm trying to say. Also, my smartphone's autocorrect is like a dumpster fire. I hardly even try to fight it anymore, my royal duties have me spending my time on more pressing matters
Maybe. If the four orders of magnitude more massive means it is ingesting four orders of magnitude more of its surrounding mass than Sag A*, assuming perfect conversion, the intensity of the of the emitted radiation would be approximately four orders of magnitude greater by E=mc^2. By the inverse square law, M87 would have to be 16 orders of magnitude further away than it is for the intensity of the radiation reaching Earth to be the same as that reaching the Earth from Sag A*.

So, assuming I am not making too many ass_umptions, and I actually know what I am talking about, :dizzy: the intensity of the radiation from M87's SMBH reaching Earth may very well be on the order of two orders of magnitude greater than the intensity of the radiation reaching Earth from Sag A*, and like any brighter object, it would also be easier to photograph.
The mass of a blackhole and it's physical size don't work like that. I believe since it's a sphere the radius of the event horizon increases at an inversely cubed rate to it's mass