Immerse yourself in the physics of the first black hole Image

on the left, an orange galaxy speckled with m87. to the right of its luminous center, a stream of light indicates the jet. on the right, the original image of the black hole taken by eht. he has a soft orange ring around a shadow
On the right, the very first image of the black hole at the heart of the M87 galaxy, taken by the Event Horizon telescope. The wide-field view of NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory on the M87 galaxy (left) reveals the jet of high energy particles thrown by intense gravitational and magnetic fields around the black hole. Credit: X-rays (left): NASA / CXC / Villanova University / J. Neilsen; Radio (right): Collaboration with Event Horizon Telescope

"As I like to say, betting against Einstein is never a good idea," said astrophysicist Shep Doeleman at Science in 2016, as the Horizon Telescope project of the event began all just. This week, astronomers and astrophysicists are celebrating the very first black hole image, an image that provides further evidence of Einstein's theory of general relativity.

At an illuminating press conference on Wednesday, April 10, scientists shared the picture for the first time: a ring of light slightly blurred and slightly unbalanced surrounding a dark shadow. The global network of telescopes was able to image this supermassive black hole located 55 million light-years away, in the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, or M87. But even if the image confirms current ideas about gravity, it raises new questions about galaxy formation and quantum physics. Shep Doelemen and Feryal, director of the Horizon Telescope of the event Özel, professor of astrophysics at the University of Arizona and scientist of the EHT study, helps us understand the image. And Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo, assistant professor of physics and Canada Research Chair at the Université de Montréal, joins the conversation to talk about what scientists would like to discover later.

Relive the moment the image was published and explore the simulations, infographics and images from the Event Horizon telescope search below.

a satellite dish in the middle of a wooded mountain covered with snow in a light blue day
The large binocular telescope, on the right, and the submillimeter telescope, one of the eight Event Horizon telescope sensors and one of the two integrated network of the University of Arizona, observe the sky from the Mount Graham International Observatory, near Tucson, Arizona. Credit: Bob Demers / UANews
the m87 galaxy that looks like an orange mottled on a black background. superimposed on the left, a close-up of the galaxy's nucleus showing the jet of light
Large-field view of the M87 galaxy, taken by NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory, published on April 10, 2019. Source: X-Ray (left): NASA / CXC / Villanova University / J. Neilsen; Radio (right): Collaboration with Event Horizon Telescope
an animation of an artist impression of a swirling black hole that is a red-orange color. two jets sprout vertically from the center of the black hole, the brightest point of the figure
The impression of this artist represents the black hole in the heart of the huge elliptical galaxy M87. This black hole was chosen as an observation object by the Event Horizon telescope to change the paradigm. The overheated material surrounding the black hole is presented, as well as the relativistic jet launched by the black hole of M87. Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser

The impression of this artist on the environment around a black hole shows the accretion disk of a superheated plasma and a relativistic jet. The video also describes the trajectories of photons near a black hole and explains how the Event Horizon telescope array captured light from the gravitational bending of the event horizon. Credit: Nicolle R. Fuller / NSF

an infographic of the anatomy of a black hole. a thin jet of light coming vertically from the center of the black hole is the relativistic jet. The horizon of events is called the thin line around the center of the black hole, or the singularity. the most stable internal orbit is orange immediately around the event horizon. the sphere of photons comes next. then the accretion disk flows outward
In this infographic, an artist represents a rapidly rotating supermassive black hole surrounded by an accretion disk. The thin disk of rotating material consists of the remains of a sun-like star that has been torn by black hole forces. The black hole is labeled, showing the anatomy of this fascinating object. Click on the image for a high resolution version. Credit: ESO

Further reading

  • Read the newspapers about M87 and the image of the black hole at The letters of the astrophysical journal
  • Check out the image and see the context of the Event Horizon Telescope project in the Science Friday news bulletin.
  • Discover what Experimenters and theorists then want to study the ESS data on Science Friday.
  • Listening at a Science Friday interview with Shep Doeleman and Priyamvada Natarajan on black hole imaging.
  • Learn more on the Event Horizon Telescope project.
  • Want to know more about black holes? Dive into the cover of Science Friday.

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