You weren’t around for scientific achievements like the discovery of gravity, the invention of the internet, or the first telephone call, but today you get to witness one of the most epic moments in the history of science: A black hole has been captured for the first time in history.
The image above is shows the mysterious face of a supermassive black hole located in a galaxy called Messier 87. It lies about 55 million light-years from Earth and is billions of times more massive than the sun. This historic photo was snapped by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — a planet-spanning network of radio observatories that work together to peer deep into the universe.
What Is a Black Hole?
A black hole is a region in space where the pulling force of gravity is so strong that light is not able to escape. The strong gravity occurs because matter has been pressed into a tiny space. This compression can take place at the end of a star’s life. Some black holes are a result of dying stars.
Because no light can escape, black holes are invisible. However, space telescopes with special instruments can help find black holes. They can observe the behavior of material and stars that are very close to black holes.
How Do Black Holes Form?
Scientists say the first black holes are thought to have formed in the early universe, soon after the big bang. Stellar black holes form when the center of a very massive star collapses in upon itself. This collapse also causes a supernova, or an exploding star, that blasts part of the star into space. Scientists think supermassive black holes formed at the same time as the galaxy they are in. The size of the supermassive black hole is related to the size and mass of the galaxy it is in.