First black hole picture, on Messier 87 galaxy

Girish Margam
Apr 11 · 3 min read

Here we have it folks first image of the shadow of the Black hole which is located at a distant galaxy named Messier 87. It measures 40 billion km across — three million times the size of the Earth and it has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. This shadow is around 2.5 times bigger than actual black hole.

What is a black hole?

It is an empty patch in space which bends the space. A black hole is region in space from which nothing escapes, not even light.

They consist of huge amount of matter packed densely into them which creates an immense gravity pull around them. These gravitational pull creates point of no return, and hence light even could not escape it.

There is a circular light around the shadow of the black hole, which has a temperature of millions of degrees. This can be brighter than the stars in that galaxy, which makes it the brightest object which we are able to see from earth which is billions of light years away.

How it was captured

The event horizon telescope (EHT) which is a network of 8 linked telescope was designed to capture the image of a black hole. The size is around 2.5 times smaller than the shadow it casts and measures just under 40 billion km across. While this may sound large, this ring is only about 40 microarcseconds across — equivalent to measuring the length of a credit card on the surface of the Moon.

These 8 telescope where not connected physically, they were able to synchronize their recorded data with atomic clocks hydrogen masers, which precisely timed their observations. Each telescope of EHT produced enormous amounts of data, roughly around 350 terabytes per day, which was stored on high performance helium filled hard drives. They were combined at Max Planck institute for Radio astronomy and MIT, by flowing these data to highly specialized supercomputers, known as correlators. They were then painstakingly converted into an image using novel computational tools developed by the collaboration. There were different teams which worked independently in creation of image, to avoid human biasness.

I am not an Astronomers so I don’t understand the black completely, but its existence alone makes me so eager to know more about it. Till date I only saw the simulated and animated image of black hole none of which was a real image. But it is the first astronomers got the data and converted it to an image which shows the shadow of the black hole surrounded by circular light.


Originally published at on April 11, 2019.

Girish Margam

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