An worldwide scientific team on Wednesday announced a milestone in astrophysics - the first-ever photo of a black hole - using a global network of telescopes to gain insight into celestial objects with gravitational fields so strong no matter or light can escape.
This first view of a black hole was, like early photographs of the Earth from space, an iconic and emotional visual. Since then, telescopes in France and Greenland have been added to the global network. It was a reminder of the wonder of nature, and a milestone in humanity's exploration of the heavens.
The one that scientists imaged lies some 55 million light-years from Earth at the center of a galaxy called Messier 87 (M87).
UB physicists said they were astounded by the detail of the image, and that the ability to visualize a black hole heralds a new era of science in the field.
"Even though we predicted that if you had a black hole you would see a ring of light, we didn't know we were going to get that ring".
The high-energy particles which are present in the jets generated by M87's supermassive black hole, that come from an area situated near the event horizon, and the fact that it tends to alternate between dimming and brightening, randomly, is quite impressive.
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The image, he said, aligns with expectations of what a black hole should look like based on Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, which predicts how space-time is warped by the extreme mass of a black hole.
"We have seen what we though was unseeable".
Data gathered with the help of the NuSTAR and Chandra infers that the supermassive black hole releases constant streams of high-energy which travel at speed close to that of lights, traversing a distance of nearly 1,000 light-years.
Previously, indirect evidence and a great deal of speculation had been published concerning the mysterious existence of black holes.
"I was amazed by the beauty of it, the scientific accomplishment, and that again Einstein's theory of relativity prevailed and exactly predicted what we have seen".
Black holes are also almost impossible to see.