"I think it looks very convincing", said Andrea Ghez, director of the UCLA Galactic Center Group, who wasn't part of the discovery team. This gas in this area heats up to billions of degrees, creating a silhouette, the shape of which should be able to be predicted by Einstein's theory of gravity.
The image shows a ring of fiery light surrounding a black circle.
But, through global collaboration and an array of instruments, the team built a virtual telescope essentially as large as Earth itself, allowing them to peer into Messier 87, which lies 55 million light years away, to see the black hole at its center.
"We found literally the proverbial hole in the middle of this galaxy, and to me that is just stunning", said astrophysicist Dimitrios Psaltis of the University of Arizona, the EHT project scientist.
'This shadow, caused by the gravitational bending and capture of light by the event horizon, reveals a lot about the nature of these fascinating objects and allowed us to measure the enormous mass of M87's black hole'. This monumental feat has been made possible by EHT's eight ground-based radio telescopes positioned throughout the world, coming together in an worldwide collaboration. They can vary widely in size and mass. The data, stored on physical hard drives, was transported to a central location where it was "stitched" together by a supercomputer to form the image of the black hole's shadow.
The project's researchers obtained the data using radio telescopes in the US states of Arizona and Hawaii as well as in Mexico, Chile, Spain and Antarctica.
After all, black holes are among the most powerful forces and biggest mysteries in the universe.
Black holes are the "most extreme environment in the known universe", Broderick said, a violent, churning place of "gravity run amok".
The EHT observations use a technique called very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) that can synchronise telescope facilities around the world and exploit the rotation of our planet to form one huge, Earth-size telescope, enough to read a newspaper in NY from a sidewalk cafe in Paris.
"Science fiction has become science fact", University of Waterloo theoretical physicist Avery Broderick, one of the leaders of the research team of about 200 scientists from 20 countries, declared as the colorized orange-and-black picture was unveiled.
The black hole, which is highlighted by radiating hot gas orbiting around it, is about 55 million light years from Earth.
"UM contributed to the project", said Dr Juan Carlos Algaba, a VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) expert of the Radio Cosmology Laboratory in the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science in UM.
The Associated Press contributed to this article. This technique is called radio observation.
Others may have been taking the joke a little too far.
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