A Closer Look at the First Black Hole Ever Photographed
Sharper images of the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy M87 were released Tuesday, according to a new study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letter.
The first images of the supermassive black hole debuted in April 2019 from the Event Horizon Telescope, showing a blurry but discernible image of the astronomical phenomenon.
Telescope teamwork! Nineteen observatories, including Hubble, are giving unprecedented insight into a black hole within galaxy M87.
— Hubble (@NASAHubble) April 14, 2021
“This supermassive black hole weighs 6.5 billion times the mass of the sun and is located at the center of M87, about 55 million light-years from Earth,” NASA said. The new images were shown in three different views across the electromagnetic spectrum, including radio, X-ray, and visible light from 19 of the world’s most powerful telescopes.
Supermassive black holes in the centers of some active galaxies create powerful jets of radiation and particles traveling close to the speed of light. The new data captured could help researchers understand jet dynamics and the origin of cosmic rays.
Scientists believe there are three classes of black holes. A stellar-mass black hole weighs three to dozens of times the Sun’s mass, while supermassive black holes can weigh 100,000 to billions of solar masses and are found near the center of most large galaxies. Some astronomers suspect there is a third intermediate-mass category ranging from 100 to more than 10,000 solar masses.
“Understanding the particle acceleration is really central to our understanding of both the EHT image as well as the jets, in all their ‘colors,'” co-author Sera Markoff, an astrophysicist with the University of Amsterdam, said in a statement to Space.com.
According to NASA, the collaboration with other observatories to attain the multiple different electromagnetic images was “the largest simultaneous observing campaign ever undertaken.” The observation campaign involved the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
The new observational study gathered work from 760 scientists from approximately 200 institutions around the world. The revelation of new supermassive black hole images falls on NASA’s celebrated Black Hole Week, from April 12-16.