Black Hole Imaged for the First Time
Before today: anything we’ve seen pretending to be a photo of a black hole was a fictionalized animation or a manipulation of some kind
4/11/19, 4:36 pm EDT
By John Corry, photo from New Scientist
The culmination of a project stretching back over 20 years, Professor Heino Falcke of Radboud University in the Netherlands has put a close to an era, and not just for himself. Closing the gap between Einstein’s first predictions over a hundred years ago, a supermassive black hole over 55 million lightyears away from Earth has been physically ‘photographed’ for the first time, though that’s a somewhat misleading term; the image was captured by a number of telescopes located across the globe all coordinating over the course of ten days. The information then gathered was so much that the scientists had to store it all on hundreds of hard drives in a central location. Some of the sites of the telescopes include a volcano in Hawaii, mountains in Arizona, the Atacama desert in Chile, and Antarctica. It’s been a worldwide effort and will surely lead to more discoveries. This was something thought completely impossible but thirty years ago.
The hole #ShawshankRedemption #TheHole #GoBackToTheHoleNewton is located in a galaxy referred to as M87, and has a mass 6.5 billion times more than our sun. The image itself represents an area larger than our entire solar system. “It is an absolute monster,'“ prof. Falcke said, “the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe." The ‘ring of fire' (Falcke’s term) we see surrounding the hole is caused by superheated gas rapidly falling past its event horizon: the ‘line’ where the hole’s gravity becomes so much that ‘even light can’t escape its pull.’
The team is already working on taking images of other black holes, including the one at the center of the Milky Way galaxy–our galaxy–though that one’s a little tougher, as The hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy doesn’t have nearly the ‘ring of fire’ as that of the one at the center of M87. It is unknown why this is the case.
Theories on black holes go back to Albert Einstein at the turn of the 20th century, who famously thought he’d made a mistake when he first predicted them in his theory of general relativity. They form when a star at least 40 times more massive than our sun runs out of fuel and collapses in on itself. Its ‘gravity’ (which Einstein defines as a ‘distortion’ of spacetime dependent on the mass of an object, opposed to Newton’s inherent ‘force’ which is a bit simpler and less mathematically-based (hence that joke earlier)) then reaches levels where anything caught in it (or: past its event horizon, which is essentially the start of its ‘atmosphere’ in a sense (A VERY SIMPLIFIED SENSE)) is unable to escape. It is unknown exactly what happens once an object passes the event horizon, though theories are not in short supply.
Some scientists think that a black hole lies in the center of every galaxy in the universe, and some even speculate that they hold the key to its ‘beginning’ and its ‘end’. Time is a part of the mystery (in Einstein, there are three ‘spacial’ dimensions (up/down, left/right, and backwards/forwards) and one ‘time’ (one second per second) (which I’m not disputing, but (unrelated): do we have any of those spatial dimensions without time? What might the opposite of that (three ‘time’ dimensions, one ‘spatial’) look like? Could we ever even know?)), /> but: if ‘even light cannot escape the hole’s gravitational pull’, and nothing can travel faster than the speed of light–essentially rendering light the arbiter of perception within this three-dimensional, time-perspective-based universe–where does that put people? We can only understand the universe through light, yet light isn’t really an ‘object’ in the phenomenological sense of the term (light is made of photons, which have no mass). If light ‘disappears’ past the event horizon, would that mean that humans would as well? Yes, but if photons have no mass, how could they be ‘swallowed’ by the hole in any comparable way to the way that a human would be torn apart and her mass simply absorbed?
These are questions that have been asked before… Does ‘consciousness’ have mass? And if it doesn’t, is it made of the same ‘material’, or of a similar material, as light? If light can’t escape a black hole, yet all matter in the universe is only possibly perceived through the existence of consciousness–here assuming consciousness to be a more similar thing to light than, say, a rock (in that consciousness itself does not have mass (as far as we now know))–how is it not all just a big, random emanation pulsating like sound waves from the various black holes throughout the universe? Or maybe consciousness is dependent on the potential rip in spacetime caused when something like a black hole forms??
Caltech physicist Fiona Harrison made the comparison: “If you took a baseball and crushed it down small enough, eventually it would rip the fabric of space-time too.”
I am a scientist.