Black hole picture 2019: "Our jaws dropped", astrophysicist says of major milestone

First black hole image How to watch the 'groundbreaking' announcement

Black hole seen for first time in image showing matter being sucked into timeless oblivion

Scientists shared a ground-breaking photo of a black hole on Wednesday, partly thanks to an algorithm created by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate.

Today (April 10), a global collaboration of more than 200 astronomers presented the first image of a directly-observed black hole.

Katie Bouman has worked on the imaging project for the Event Horizon Telescope for about 12 years. The mystique of black holes in the community is very substantial.

"This is the strongest evidence we have to date of the existence of black holes", said Sheperd Doeleman, an astrophysicist with the Center for Astrophysics. "Yet, with more observations like this one, they are yielding their secrets", Dr. France A. Córdova, the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), said during a Wednesday news conference in Washington D.C. At last, they tried their discoveries against the consequences of a million recreations of what a black hole may resemble, until finally they recognized a match. "But what we find for M87 is, at the very fine detail we have, objects change on the timescale of days". Specifically, researchers looked at the event horizon, the outer limits of where light can no longer escape the intense gravity of the black hole.

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It sounds unusual to keep saying Einstein is right, but every time his general relativity theory is confirmed, "we kill a cloud of alternative theories" and gain better understanding how to create an even more comprehensive theory of physics, said Ethan Vishniac of Johns Hopkins University. "We saw something that really had a ring to it if you can use that phrase". If they have, the Event Horizon team is making sure that it stays quiet about it. Black holes are thought to be the "driving engines" of galaxies, "affecting the largest scales of the universe", she added.

Some black holes are inactive, but not this one, she said.

It has been nearly a century since Albert Einstein first made the historic prediction of the existence of black holes in his theory of gravity.

While only six observatories are now signed up to the project, more are expected to join in months to come, according to MIT.

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'Black hole event horizon or big fiery space doughnut?' asked another. "[Taking a picture of the black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy is] equivalent to taking an image of a grapefruit on the moon, but with a radio telescope". It was in June a year ago, when all the data had arrived at the center.

The data captured from each telescope was stored on hard drives and then flown to three central processing centres in Boston, US, and Bonn in Germany.

The image of M87 will occupy scientists for weeks, months and even years to come as they analyze it from every perspective.

Hopkins continued and said: "Honestly in some ways the most impressive thing in all seriousness is just the technical achievement involved, and not just what you learn from this".

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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