The huge hole lies in a galaxy named M87, more than 50 million light-years away.
The first-ever picture 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, and the spot is the black hole’s shadow, according to sciencenews.org. “We have seen what we thought was unseeable. We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole,” Sheperd Doeleman, EHT Director and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., said April 10 in Washington, D.C., at one of seven concurrent news conferences. “We’ve been studying black holes so long, sometimes it’s easy to forget that none of us have actually seen one,” France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation, said in the Washington, D.C., news conference.
That’s because black holes are notoriously hard to see. Their gravity is so extreme that nothing, not even light, can escape across the boundary at a black hole’s edge, known as the event horizon. But some black holes, especially supermassive ones dwelling in galaxies’ centers, stand out by voraciously accreting bright disks of gas and other material. The EHT image reveals the shadow of M87’s black hole on its accretion disk. Appearing as a fuzzy, asymmetrical ring, it unveils for the first time a dark abyss of one of the universe’s most mysterious objects.
“That’s fantastic,” says physicist Clifford Will of the University of Florida in Gainesville who is not on the EHT team. “Being able to actually see this shadow and to detect it is a tremendous first step.”
The image aligns with expectations of what a black hole should look like based on Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which predicts how spacetime is warped by the extreme mass of a black hole. The picture is “one more strong piece of evidence supporting the existence of black holes. And that, of course, helps verify general relativity,” Will concluded.
Black holes are made up of huge amounts of matter squeezed into a small area, according to NASA, creating a massive gravitational field which draws in everything around it, including light.