Long have we waited to peer into the rim of a black hole and finally, that day was upon us. A black hole is a region of space so dense and massive that it engulfs and draws in rays of light. Therefore, collecting an image of one against the stark of space has been elusive, to say the least.
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is a series of observatories on Earth working with the common goal of collecting and eventually synthesizing data into one coherent image of a black hole in a galaxy called M87.
The imaging project was proposed by Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who told us that the black hole is: "...larger than the size of our entire Solar System,"
"It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists. It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe."
One of the telescopes in the EHT network is the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) on top of Mauna Kea peak in Hawaii, where Australian Jessica Dempsey is deputy director.
"We've made a dish the size of the planet," she exclaimed jubilantly.
The combination of results from all of the 9 points around the world fashioned a gigantic camera 9,000km in diameter.
The "camera" is so powerful Dr Dempsey says " if you're sitting in a pub in Perth, you would be able to see a guy sitting in the pub in Sydney, not only would you be able to see him, you'd be able to see his eye colour, and you'd be able to see the brand of beer he was drinking,"
Katie Bouman, the 29-year-old scientist who formed the algorithm that composed the image from 5 petabytes, or 5,242,880 gigabytes of data necessary to process the image of the black hole. So much data that the internet could not be used to send it and the hard drives had to be flown manually on site.
“We are giving humanity its first view of a black hole — a one-way door out of our universe,” says Sheperd Doeleman of the Haystack Observatory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who is the EHT’s lead astronomer.
We have pushed farther and hard than ever before and peered deep into the eye of the deep unknown.