The first-ever recorded image of a black hole has just been released—and it doesn’t look like you might think. Though one might guess that a picture of a black hole would be not much to look at, the image shows a glowing reddish-orange ring that almost pulsates under the viewer’s gaze. This landmark visual was created using the power of the Event Horizon Telescope. As of today, the group of eight Earth-based radio telescopes has successfully captured and documented the first-ever direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow.
The black hole is at the center of Messier 87, a galaxy located in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster. It is located 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5-billion times that of the Sun. The National Science Foundation explains on their website:
Black holes are extremely dense pockets of matter, objects of such incredible mass and minuscule volume that they drastically warp the fabric of space-time. Anything that passes too close, from a wandering star to a photon of light, gets captured. Most black holes are the condensed remnants of a massive star, the collapsed core that remains following an explosive supernova… Using powerful observatories on Earth, astronomers can see the jets of plasma that black holes spew into space, detect the ripples in space-time from black holes colliding, and may soon even peer at the disc of disrupted mass and energy that surrounds the black hole’s event horizon, the edge beyond which nothing can escape.
You can learn more in this press release and watch a livestream below, or on YouTube, of the National Science Foundation’s press conference on the image resulting from the Event Horizon Telescope project.