Today the Event Horizon Telescope project released its first images and sets of papers in an attempt to directly image a black hole and the material falling into it.

There it is: surrounded by an ultra-hot cloud of gas and dust falling into it lies the event horizon of a black hole several billion times the mass of our Sun. It lies about 53Mly away in M87, and the event horizon is just slightly larger than our solar system.

Even though the supermassive black hole at the center of M87 is one of the largest we know of, imaging this was the equivalent of aiming a telescope in Los Angeles to see a single human hair in New York City with a bit of detail.

In visible light with Hubble, we can see a jet of material escaping M87 just before it reaches the event horizon. And with advances in technology, large amateur telescopes under the right conditions can view the jet as well.

A big win here is comparing results to modeling.

The left image is the actual one Of M87’s supermassive black hole, the middle is a simulation based on present physics, and the one on the right is the simulation blurred to the resolution expected.

Near perfect, looks like Einstein and many others are right!

A lot of folks are crediting Einstein today, rightly so, but he’s not the only one that helped make this happen. This is a culmination of a century’s worth of work by a plethora of scientists across multiple disciplines, they deserve the credit too. It wasn’t just one person, but tens of thousands working together across the world.

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Also we didn’t just observe the supermassive black hole once and were fine with that; we viewed the black hole over several days of observation, so we watched the gas/dust disk’s dynamics change quite rapidly. The disk is orbiting at about 1000km/sec [~600mi/sec] and nearly 90 Earth masses of material falls in every day. Early data is even suggesting the jet of material escaping before the event horizon may be pushing the black hole, moving it away from the center of M87.

They’re now working to observe the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*. It’s not as massive as M87’s so it’s visually smaller, plus we have to contend with the obscuration of the dust and gas of Milky Way itself. So we’ll see what comes of that when those observations are done, and we can compare it to these of M87’s, look at the differences, and glean more about our Universe from that!

@ROCKETDRAG just wanna say thanks for sharing all this cool info here, it's really interesting 👍

@GlitterDisaster You’re welcome! This was a super amazing project.

@ROCKETDRAG thanks for your thread, it's the most fascinating stuff I've read in a long while...

@ROCKETDRAG I really appreciate the effort you put in to sharing this kind of info! Thank you! I’m still absolutely terrified / fascinated by black holes!

@argylewerewolf You’re welcome, and I feel exactly the same way.

@ROCKETDRAG omg what!! they rocket themselves away from whatever matter they're eating??

@ROCKETDRAG Eating 1 Earth mass every 16 minutes. Helluva thing.

The universe is TERRIFYING. It makes me feel so small and fragile (and slightly nauseated) when I look at picture like this and try to contemplate the SIZE of it all. I get the same feeling when I look at images of the ocean floor for too long. Astrophysics and oceanography: two science fields that ignite a primal instinct in my brain to hide under the blankets. @ROCKETDRAG

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