The Whole Black Hole

By Julia Neumann

For the longest time in science, black holes have been viewed as the “most mysterious” objects in the universe having never been seen before. And up until a couple weeks ago, most scientists believed their knowledge of black holes would remain rather, well, void.

However, to the shock of the scientific community, the first photo of a black hole was captured this month. These-celestial objects are formed when a massive star in the galaxy dies and it’s core collapses. When the star is going through the process of collapsing, there is a supernova explosion. In the end, only the new-formed black hole remains and has gravity so intense that nothing can escape its force – not even light. The theory of relativity claims that as all the energy is sucked in, there is a point at the center of this where the density reaches an infinite value which creates the strong gravitational pull that cannot be resisted. All light, everything, is trapped here and is no longer visible. This point is called the “event horizon.” In the photograph, that is the black circle in the center of the orange ring.

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The first photograph of the black hole introduced a massive potential for further research. According to Joseph Pesce, an astrophysicist and program director at The National Science Foundation, the image allows us to test the fundamental laws of nature. With this, he really means looking further into the theory of relativity in an extreme gravitational environment that cannot be reproduced on Earth.

Many scientists, including Joseph Pesce, believe the photographed black hole is around 6.5 billion times the mass of the sun and it is located 55 million light-years away from Earth. Overall, it took over two years of collaboration to bring this image into focus, utilizing an entire team of scientists. And while we never lacked the information that black holes existed, now we are able to see this mysterious force for the first time in history.