It's a Black Hole!
Yes, this really is a Black Hole. For the first time ever, astronomers have got an image of the event horizon of a black hole - the region beyond which nothing, not even light can escape. The image was taken by a special network of 8 telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope, which work together to mimic a radio telescope as large as the Earth, giving amazing, high-resolution images.
The Black Hole is a very large one - with a mass of around 6.5 billion (6,500,000,000) times that of the Sun - and is in the centre of one of the largest galaxies we know of - Messier 87. We think that all galaxies have large black holes at their centre, even our own Milky Way, but this is first time we have been able to see one directly.
In the image, the bright ring is not the Black Hole, but a glowing cloud of gas and dust being pulled into the Hole by its strong gravity. However the dark circle in the centre is the region where the gravity is so strong that not even light can escape - the event horizon of the Black Hole itself. Astronomers are already busy analysing the data from the telescope and are learning a lot about the Hole, and even more will be learnt as more data is gathered on this and other Black Holes.
Explore Messier 87
You can use our image processing software LTImage to study observations of Messier 87. To get observations:
- Registered teachers and students can get their own observations of Messier 87.
- Or you could get some of the many observations in the Archive
Can you find the "jet" fired out of the centre of the galaxy by the effect of the Black Hole?