Mystery Becomes Reality

Aarya Banthia & Akshay Manglani

On Wednesday, April 10th, astronomers under the leadership of Katie Bouman, a 29-year-old assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, took a picture of a black hole. For the past two years, she has been working on a computer algorithm that has allowed researchers in the Event Horizon telescope team to take a picture of a black hole. But, why is this significant? The photograph was taken of a black hole that is 53 million light years away at the core of the galaxy called Messier 87. Many raised the question as to why the “black” hole appears to be bright orange. And if light cannot escape a black hole, how was this photograph achieved? This black hole was identifiable because of the bright surroundings it was enclosed within and hence it was photographed in this way. A black hole itself does not emit any light, and the bright orange color we see outside the black hole is what scientists call the event horizon and is where all kinds of radiations are emitted, including gas, clouds, and plasma. Scientists knew that the very vast distance from the earth to this black hole required an antenna as long as the Earth itself. As it turns out, the black hole in question has a diameter of 40 billion kilometers and is said to be six times the earth’s size. This discovery matters because scientists for multiple years have been using computer simulated images of a black hole and for the first time, they have an actual image. This would not only allow them to compare the images, but also see how and why the differences between the images exist. The image has tested existing theories and has paved the way for a better understanding of black holes and nature in the universe. 

 

First photographed image of a black hole

 

Image Credits

PBS

There are multiple fascinating implications of taking a picture of a black hole, especially one that is as far as 53 million light years and has a mass six billion times than that of our sun. The most important effect is that it proved Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Scientists claimed that there are objects in space with immense masses and densities that even light, the fastest speed known to man, is sucked in. Einstein added on by stating that all energy gets sucked into the event horizon (the black hole in the center of the orange circle) because this center is where density reaches an infinite value that creates a gravitational pull nothing can resist - depicting Einstein’s theory on energy, E=MC^2. Now, scientists can physically see the object they had been theorising upon for decades. Additionally, people who hold by the adage “seeing is believing” now accept the black hole’s existence. However, this isn’t all. The feat that has been achieved by scientists - capturing a black hole so far away by connecting multiple telescopes to transform our planet into one gigantic telescope - holds into account that our technology is evolving and that we are on the verge of another technological revolution.