UA astronomers help snap first picture of black hole in space

Updated: Apr. 10, 2019 at 5:26 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona is front and center as an international team of astronomers shows the public something they have never seen before—a picture of a black hole in space.

A black hole in the M87 galaxy, invisible to the human eye, has been photographed.

“This is just really cool,” said Lia Medeiros, the U of A Graduate who has been working to develop the image.

Cool, might be an understatement because the accuracy of an image like this is unheard of before. Tod Lauer, at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, said taking the picture is like taking a picture of an astronaut holding an orange on the moon.

“This is the highest resolution image that humanity has ever created,” Medeiros said.

The picture is showing the shadow of a black hole, with matter swirling around it. Medeiros helped to make simulations of the black hole at the university. Their simulations were astonishingly accurate.

The U of A put a receiver on the South Pole and one on Mount Graham. Both contributed to the image of the black hole. They were two of eight satellites that took in data to make the picture possible. Once the image came in, these astronomers really were not all that surprised.

“We did so many simulations of black holes that the outcome is consistent with our expectations,” said Chi-Kwan “CK” Chan, an astronomer at Steward Observatory.

The picture was taken in 2017, but it’s taken two years to string together the data.

“This is a huge step forward for humanity," Medeiros said.

This discovery means astronomers can better understand the mystery of black holes and advance technology like GPS systems, which use Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

There will be a public meeting on Wednesday, April 17 at 7 p.m. at the U of A about their efforts.

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