Universe Guide

First Black Hole Imaged

Scientists have released the first image taken of a Supermassive Black Hole at the centre of the Messier 87 galaxy in the constellation of Virgo. The galaxy lies at a distance of about 55 million light years from us. Light from the black hole has been travelling to get here for 55 million years travelling at the speed of light. To put that in another context is that the dinosaurs were killed ten million years before light from M87 travelled to get here.

Messier 87 Supermassive Black Hole

The picture is copyright and released by EHT.

Supermassive Black Holes are at the centre of most galaxies in the universe. An exception to the rule is Messier 33 in the Triangulum galaxy Harvard. The picture might not look much more than a large orange Polo sweet but to scientists its a massive step up from what we've seen before.

Even though the galaxy is about 40 billion kilometres across, it is far too far away to be seen with the naked eye. You would need a pair of 7x50 binoculars as a minimum to be able to see it. The galaxy is located near the border with Coma Berenices constellation. To look at the constellation, use the picture below as a guide.

Location of Messier 87 in Virgo

The picture was generated using Night Vision, a free application.

The image was taken by the Event Horizon Telescope which is a network of eight telescopes linked together. One of the telescopes involved in the imaging was located on Antarctica, near the South Pole. The other telescopes were sited in the Americas and Europe. The amount of data that was compiled was far too much to be sent across the Internet, instead the data was compiled onto hard disks and flown to central processing labortories in Boston, USA and Bonn, Germany.

The Black Hole at the centre of the M87 is 1000x more massive than the Black Hole in our galaxy, the milky way. The Black Hole is between 3 and 7 billion times greater than the mass of the Sun.

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