SOUTHFIELD—For the first time in history, scientists announced April 10, humanity has captured an image of a black hole.
And if you don’t know what that means, Scott Schneider, associate professor of physics at Lawrence Technological University, can explain it to you in plain English.
Astronomers used an array of radio telescopes spanning the entire world to capture the image from the center of a galaxy known as M87, nearly 54 million light years away. The data was converted from radio frequencies upward to the much higher frequencies of visible light simply so we could see it. (Radio frequencies were used to detect the image because they do a much better job of penetrating the gases and dust of space than visible light does.)
Black holes are objects predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. They occur when a massive star runs out of material to fuel its fusion reaction. The star collapses to a point known as a singularity—an object so dense and heavy that not even light can escape it, and which appears to take up no space at all.
In this video, Schneider explains what black holes are, how they’re formed, how scientists captured the image, the significance of the achievement, and future steps in astronomy.
And for a comparison of the black hole's mind-boggling size, see https://xkcd.com/2135/.