Nerdery: Scientists Take the First Ever Picture of a Black Hole

Wow, this is exciting news!

Scientists just released the first ever images taken of a black hole, astronomical bodies previously thought to be undetectable through direct observation due to the fact that not even light can escape their gravity well.

A global team of scientists used telescopes around the world to create a virtual mega-telescope the size of the Earth to capture these amazing images.

If you’re a science nerd like me, this is really cool!

Click here to read the full CNN article.

And another take on the story from NPR.

And Phys.org.

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17 Responses to “Nerdery: Scientists Take the First Ever Picture of a Black Hole”

  1. Riddip April 10, 2019 7:45 am #

    Super interesting video that explains really good what is going on in this image: https://youtu.be/zUyH3XhpLTo

  2. JPWYRM April 10, 2019 8:27 am #

    Very cool indeed. Plus it looks like the Eye of Terror. So that’s nice too I guess…

  3. JimV April 10, 2019 8:55 am #

    So fricken cool.

  4. zigzagzen April 10, 2019 8:57 am #

    Sauron is watching

  5. WestRider April 10, 2019 10:36 am #

    Very cool stuff! https://xkcd.com/2133/

  6. Pyrothem April 10, 2019 2:29 pm #

    The Math holds true. 🙂 Wish that the great Stephen Hawking was here to see it even if he could do so through math in is mind.

    Weird to see one of the true monsters of our existence. Yes I know this image is built inside out so it is not a true image of a black hole (Think if it as having sensors at the edge of a pond, throw a rock in and have the sensors try to make a picture of the rock using just the ripples) but I consider it a thing to be held up as great significant thing like the picture of the Earth Rise from Apollo 11.

    • Reecius
      Reecius April 10, 2019 3:20 pm #

      Yeah, this is incredible.

      My question is if that ring of light is visible as in that picture from all angles? Does the light warp around it and fire out omnidirectionally? Crazy if so, or are we lucky to be in the right field of view relative to the black hole?

      • Pyrothem April 10, 2019 8:51 pm #

        The ring is the accretion disc, this is the light you are seeing. Like the rings of Saturn it is made of matter but being whip around the black Hole at near the speed of fracking Light.
        They are heated pretty uniformly by the speed so the bright spot you see is the side of the disc spinning toward earth and the darker is it spinning away. For a high def view of what this most likely looks like look up Interstellar. It seems as tho we got lucky and are looking mostly top down on the disc. If we had a straight on view seeing the disc would be really tricky.

        For those disappointed in the resolution of the image just look the best we had at looking at Pluto in 1996 and what we got in 2016.

      • abusepuppy April 11, 2019 4:04 am #

        >Crazy if so, or are we lucky to be in the right field of view relative to the black hole?

        Well, part of the reason that they chose this particular black hole to image was because it presents a neat top-on view from our position; there has been some work imaging other supermassive black holes (such as the one at the center of our own galaxy), but for a variety of reasons- including angle- the others are much harder to make anything coherent out of.

        That’s the great thing about stellar imaging, you’ve got such an enormous number of objects to choose from you can often take your pick of whichever one you please, unless you’re aiming for something specific.

        • Office Waaagh! April 11, 2019 6:05 pm #

          They mainly chose M87* just because it’s big enough and close enough that they had a reasonable chance of imaging it with the resolution they have. It’s the largest supermassive black hole in our immediate neighbourhood, and it produces a really bright X-ray signature that they can use to compare with their radio astronomy results.

          I’ve read some of the papers and I have a better understanding now of what they were imaging, the shadow of the black hole would actually look very similar even if you were seeing it side-on because of the way the light-bending effect creates the shadow. You wouldn’t see it like planetary rings, the black spot in the middle would get gradually obscured by the light, but the angle is irrelevant to the choice of black hole as they could still test general relativity even if we were seeing it side-on. They’ve also been working on imaging Sagittarius A* (at the centre of our galaxy), but it’s much smaller so the effects they look for are weaker, it’s not because of the angle relative to the axis of rotation.

          Light bending also means that the black hole appears much bigger than it actually is.

          My doctorate is in materials physics rather than astrophysics, so I’m speaking somewhat outside my expertise, but I think I understand the physics of what they’re doing pretty well.

  7. Office Waaagh! April 10, 2019 5:04 pm #

    This isn’t my field, so any astrophysics PhDs feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. My understanding is that we’re getting a nearly top-down view of the black hole, which is rotating clockwise. The axis of rotation is tilted slightly, which is why the image is brighter at the bottom since that matter is moving towards us the fastest.

    The light comes from matter orbiting outside the black hole at very close to light speed, but that hasn’t fallen in and become trapped (yet). If the black hole’s axis of rotation were pointing up or down, you would see a line of light through the middle rather than a ring around it. Think of it like looking at Saturn’s rings, if you looking from above you see circles around the planet but from the side you’d see a line through the middle.

    Just minor clarification to a previous comment, this isn’t an image of Hawking radiation, which is a different black hole phenomenon.

    • abusepuppy April 11, 2019 4:01 am #

      All pretty much correct. I believe that the scientists involved are currently working on doing some interesting stuff with info about the gamma jets out of the north and south “poles” of the object, though I haven’t seen any further reports yet; those may be presented in a later paper.

      And yeah, Hawking radiation on a body this size is absolutely trivial.

      • Office Waaagh! April 11, 2019 6:23 pm #

        The jet from M87* is already very well studied, in fact it was first observed decades ago! There is an article about the x-ray observations from Chandra here: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1086/324396/fulltext/

        They mostly used this data for calibration and comparison, so they could make sure their models of the event horizon were consistent with what is already known from the jet, rather than for new observations of the jet itself.

  8. Zweischneid April 10, 2019 11:01 pm #

    The Eye of Sauron!

  9. N.I.B. April 13, 2019 2:13 pm #

    “I. Seee. Youu.”

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