An image of the supermassive black hole at the centre of galaxy M87. The black hole’s boundary appears here 2.5 times larger than its true size, because the black hole’s enormous mass causes starlight to bend around it. Image Credit: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.
Astronomers have captured a direct image of a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy for the first time.
The image was captured using the Event Horizon Telescope and shows glowing material that has been heated as it falls into the black hole, with a round shadow at the centre representing the black hole itself.
It is thought that there is a supermassive black hole at the centre of most galaxies, and that these objects play a key role in galaxy formation and evolution.
The pictured supermassive black hole lies at the centre of galaxy M87, 55 million lightyears away.
The black hole itself has a mass 6.5 million times that of our Sun.
Black holes are cosmic objects that are so dense, not even light can escape their gravitational pull.
Despite this, they can be seen through the warping of starlight caused by their enormous mass, and through the superheating of surrounding cosmic material as it falls towards the black hole.
“This is a huge day in astrophysics,” says National Science Foundation Director France Córdova.
“We’re seeing the unseeable. Black holes have sparked imaginations for decades.
They have exotic properties and are mysterious to us.
Yet with more observations like this one they are yielding their secrets.