The first ever image of a black hole was revealed on Apr. 10 at astrophysics press conferences held simultaneously in Shanghai, Taipei, Washington D.C., Tokyo, Brussels and Santiago. It was the result of joint efforts of eight telescopes by over 200 scientists worldwide. The virtual telescope network is called Event Horizon Telescope (EHT).
The captured black hole resides at the center of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster.
On Chinese social media, many joked that the picture of black hole looks like a donut or a round heater. Foreign media dubbed it the eye of Sauron in the Lord of the Rings. It seems less sci-fi like than the computerized image of Gargantua in Chritopher Nolan’s Interstellar.
More specifically, what’s shown in the photo is the boundaries of the black hole, as everything that goes beyond the event horizon is absorbed by the massive gravity within the behemoth. New York Times writes, “Here, according to Einstein’s theory, matter, space and time come to an end and vanish like a dream.”
This photo is so significant that it’s not some random picture you can send take on your SLR camera, it takes as long as two years to develop the films of the picture, and to filter out the useful images from the massive amount of data.
According to South China Morning Post, it is undeniable that Chinese astronomers have made their contribution to the EHT project. Wu Xuebing, director of the astronomy department of Pekin University mentioned that his department took part in the project.
It is also reported that Chinese scientists also contributed in terms of financing, computer modeling and data analysis.
In January 2019, professor Wang Tinggui and Liu Guilin from the Department of Astronomy at the University of Science and Technology of China published their research results in the sub-journal of Nature, Nature-Astronomy, which for the first time captured the physical properties of high-speed gas driven by the supermassive black hole, by observing the absorption lines of the spectrum. The study proved that the high-speed gas flowing out has enough energy to affect the evolution of the galaxy. This photo will give scientists more sources to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies.
“The successful imaging of the black hole in the center of M87 is just the beginning of the EHT collaboration,” commented the Director Zhiqiang Shen of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory. “More exciting results are expected from the EHT project in the near future.”
Featured Image Source: Event Horizon Telescope.