Astronomers have released the first ever image of a black hole, which is located in a distant galaxy. It measures 40 billion km across - three million times the size of the Earth - and as described by the scientists as "a monster". The black hole is some 500 million trillion km away and was captured by a network of eight telescopes placed across the world.
Details have been published today in Astrophysical Journal Letters.It was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a network of eight linked telescopes.Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who initiated the experiment, told BBC News that the black hole was found in a galaxy called M87.
"What we see is larger than the size of our entire Solar System," he said. "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."
The image projects an intensely bright "ring of fire", as Prof Falcke describes it, revolving around a circular dark hole. The bright halo is created because of the superheated gas falling into the hole. They say that the light is brighter than all the billions of other stars in the galaxy together - which is why it can be seen at such distance from Earth.
The edge of the dark circle at the centre is the point at which the gas enters the black hole, which is an object with huge gravitational pull, not even light can escape. "Although they are relatively simple objects, black holes raise some of the most complex questions about the nature of space and time, and ultimately of our existence," said Dr Ziri Younsi, of University College London - who is part of the EHT collaboration..
"It is remarkable that the image we observe is so similar to that which we obtain from our theoretical calculations. So far, it looks like Einstein is correct once again."
But having captured the first image would be of huge help for the researchers to learn more about these mysterious objects. They will be keen to study the technique in which the black hole stands apart from what's expected in physics. No-one has got any idea how the bright ring around the hole is created. The most curious question now is what happens when an object falls into the black hole?
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