Let’s learn about black holes

Nothing, not even light, can escape the gravitational pull of this mysterious object

EHT black hole image

The first image of a black hole shows a bright ring with a dark, central spot. That ring is a bright disk of gas orbiting the supermassive behemoth in the galaxy M87. The spot is the black hole’s shadow.

Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

Until last year, every image you ever saw of a black hole wasn’t real. It was an artist’s depiction. Then, scientists turned to a network of observatories called the Event Horizon Telescope, or EHT. The network zoomed in on the M87 galaxy and took the first-ever picture of a black hole.

The image wasn’t as detailed as those artists’ drawings. It looked like a fuzzy orange donut. But for something that astronomers had long thought was unseeable, the picture was very good. That fuzzy ring was a disk of bright gas that surrounds the black hole. The black hole appears as only a black spot because nothing — including light — can escape its incredible gravitational pull.

A year ago, the Event Horizon Telescope brought us the first-ever picture of a black hole.

Want to know more? We’ve got some stories to get you started:

Here’s the first picture of a black hole: The supermassive beast lies some 55 million light-years away in a galaxy called M87 (4/10/2019) Readability: 7.8

A short history of black holes: Scientists now have the first-ever picture of a black hole. Here’s the historical context (4/10/2019) Readability: 7.3

A black hole slashed a star apart — and was caught in the act: Witnessing such events can help scientists learn about supermassive black holes (11/14/2019) Readability: 7.4

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Make a model of a black hole using materials you can find around your home.

Sarah Zielinski is the Editor, Print at Science News Explores. She has degrees in biology and journalism and likes to write about ecology, plants and animals. She has three cats: Oscar, Saffir and Alani.

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