Traverse City Astrophysicist Explains First Picture of Black Hole in Space

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“Now we can show you an actual image of what a black hole would look like as it’s passing in front of something.”

It’s the first visual evidence that black holes do exist and together telescopes around the globe took the first picture.

An image shows the shadow of a black hole in the galaxy known as M87, roughly 55 million light years away from earth.

Scientists have spent decades studying black holes ever since Albert Einstein first theorized about their existence about a century ago.

More than 200 astronomers spent the better part of two years working together.

“We had this idea we could image an actual black hole by looking at, not the black hole itself but by the shadow cast by a black hole,” said Dr. Jerry Dobek, astrophysicist and NMC professor.

For the first time, they’ve captured an image showing the shadow of a black hole in the galaxy known as M87.

Dobek says it took a series of telescopes lined up at various points around the globe synced to take images at exactly the same moment.

“When you look at the black hole it doesn’t emit any light so what we try to do is we’re trying to see that object moving in front of something that’s luminous that would actually block the background light. That’s what we’ve actually been able to detect,” Dobek said.

Dobek says you could make the analogy that it would take a telescope strong enough to see a dime on Mars for these global telescopes to see the shadow of that black hole.

“We’re seeing something that occurred actually 55 million years ago, we’re just now seeing the event today.  So it takes light that length of time to travel, that’s how far away we’re looking at something,” he said.

About 6 trillion miles away, it’s massive in size, 6.5 billion times the mass of the sun.

“Black holes deal with the death of very massive stars. So imagine something that’s 6.5 billion times the mass of our own sun. Put that in our solar system, nothing survives,” Dobek said.

Those astronomers have tested their theories and calculations and Dobek says they were right, about the size and scope of the newly photographed black hole.