The very first image of a black hole was published today after scientists across the world worked together to capture a picture of the celestial object from which no light can escape.
The milestone means the world finally has visual evidence of a supermassive black hole, with the image revealing a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy 55m light years from Earth in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster.
It shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity surrounding the black hole, which the scientists said has a density 6.5bn times that of the Sun.
“This is an extraordinary scientific feat accomplished by a team of more than 200 researchers,” said Sheperd Doeleman, Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project director as the discovery was announced at simultaneous news conferences in Brussels, Washington, Tokyo, Shanghai, Santiago and Taipei.
“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago. Breakthroughs in technology, connections between the world's best radio observatories, and innovative algorithms all came together to open an entirely new window on black holes and the event horizon."
Scientists managed to upgrade and connect a network from eight telescopes in various high-altitude locations to capture the image.
Black holes were first predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and are celestial objects with gravitational fields so strong no light can escape.
EHT Science Council chair Heino Falcke explained: “If immersed in a bright region, like a disc of glowing gas, we expect a black hole to create a dark region similar to a shadow.
“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.”