WASHINGTON, D.C. – Scientists with the National Science Foundation revealed the first ever images of a black hole.
The black hole exists in the distant galaxy of Messier 87.
It is 55 million light years from earth, and has a mass that is 6.5 billion times more than the sun.
Scientists used the Event Horizon Telescope to view the images.
The Event Horizon Telescope is actually an array of eight ground-based radio telescopes spanning the globe created for the purpose of capturing these images.
Scientists say these images are created by photons or packets of light that are thrown toward the black hole and then away from the black hole.
The amount of data gathered to show these images was so huge it took a half-a-ton worth of hard drives.
“Five pedabytes is a lot of data,” said Dan Marrone with the University of Arizona. “It’s equivalent to five thousand years of MP3 files, or according to one study I read, the entire selfie collection over a lifetime for 40,000 people.”
Scientists say these images are the result of decades of research and technology.
They have finally seen something they thought to be impossible to see a generation ago.
Avery Broderick with the University of Waterloo explained how the black hole’s event horizon is visible. “First by an accretion flow—a violent disc of orbiting gas driven inextricably toward the event horizon. By the time the material is making its final plunge, it is crashing into itself at nearly light speed, transforming the gas into a 100 billion degree plasma. Second, through astrophysical jets—narrow beams of outflowing material speeding away from the black hole at nearly the speed of light. These jets are powered by black hole spin. Rotating black holes drag everything—gas, magnetic fields and photons about themselves driving these paradoxical structures.”