NASA Releases First Ever Picture of a Real Black Hole

Alex Moon, journalist


Normally when people think of black holes, the first thing on their minds is a black circle of death. It turns out that there is more to it than a just a black void. On Wednesday, April 10th, 2019, the first ever picture of a black hole was found. It is in a galaxy called M87 or (Messier 87) for people who do not know space terms. This black hole is a super-massive black hole, which usually is at the very center of galaxies.

A black hole is no longer a theoretical region of space having a gravitational field so vast that radiation or matter can escape. The picture of the black hole isn’t actually the black hole. It is the shadow of it. Now how can something that is black produce a shadow? It is so hard to get a clear picture. It is 55 million light years away from Earth and trying to get a picture, would be like taking a picture of an orange that’s sitting on the moon from Earth. Also, it’s surrounded by a thick cloud of gas. So we can only see the shadow which can only be seen with small wavelengths of light and black holes tend to suck up the surrounding matter in a process called accretion. This surrounding matter near the hole heats up through viscous dissipation and converts gravitational energy into radiation, radiating bright light at many frequencies, including radio waves that can be picked up by radio telescopes. This shining material crosses the event horizon-boundary around a black hole beyond which no light or other radiation can escape, resulting in a dark area over a bright background. The shadow is essentially an image on the event horizon, seen by the strong gravitational field around the black hole and superimposed over the background light.

Classmate Nick Fonzi had the following to say about the black hole picture. He knew of its existence and was more aware of this event than I thought he would be, and I was surprised. When first asked if he’d ever known if there was a “real” picture of a black hole. He said, “I have seen some movies about them, but I knew that they were just representations of what we thought they might look like. Also, I was aware that black holes were theoretical and haven’t been fully discovered yet.” He also said, “I was really amazed about hearing it on the news and was kind of freaked out because it could very easily kill us.”

Well, he is right; black holes can quickly kill you even if you get a little close. Due to the punishing gravity from these monsters, you would never escape their gravitational pull. If light cannot, then we certainly can’t. In this super-massive black hole case, it would not kill you right away. Super-massive black holes are safer to be pulled into than smaller ones. Small black holes would pull your legs faster than your head, due to them being closer to the hole. As your body continues to ¨spaghettify¨ you slowly die. This is before you even make it to the event horizon. For bigger ones, you can cross the event horizon. However, death is only a matter of time. So you wouldn’t be killed right away if you entered this one, but eventually, the gravity will tear you apart as you go deeper inside the black void.

The image truly is incredible and shows just how we are only beginning to scratch the surface of the images the universe has to show us. To be able to witness a black hole is something past generations could not even fathom and hopefully, this paves the way for future discoveries.