Scientists working on the Event Horizon Telescope programme have released a photograph of a black hole. This seemingly impossible feat (black holes absorb light, so theoretically should be photograph-proof) was achieved during the early hours of the 10th April.
A black hole can be defined as "A black hole is a region of space-time exhibiting such strong gravitational effects that nothing - not even particles and electromagnetic radiation such as light - can escape from inside it." So there you have it, the photograph itself is a miracle of science. It's believed that what we see on the image is the black hole surrounded by a ring, or "halo" of luminous gas.
A spokesperson for the EHT programme had previously stated that "We think [black holes] exist throughout the universe, but we have never seen one." Well, they can't say that anymore! Although the image seems blurry, this is hardly something to be sniffed at.
2019 is already shaping up to be a great year for scientific breakthroughs, with profound leaps being made in HIV treatment and research, to neural analysis of actors' brains during a performance. Now, it seems, we have an even more exciting breakthrough on our hands.
The estimated statistics for the black hole are as mind-boggling as its discovery in the first place. It is believed to exist in a galaxy that is some 500 million, trillion km away, and measures roughly 40 billion km across. In short, you won't get lost and stumble upon it.
But, for the sake of perspective, the black hole is believed to be 3 million times the size of planet Earth; not to mention that it's estimated to be 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun.
Though we may not entirely understand everything there is to know about black holes, their manipulation of space-time, and matter could prove key to proving/disproving Einstein's theory of relativity, not to mention they may hold some secrets to further understanding the nature of dark matter.
In less-scientific terms, some observers have described the phenomenon as "a monster," and "the heavyweight champion of black holes," it was photographed by a network of 8 linked telescopes.
As for the luminous gas seen on the image, this is caused by the superheated gas being dragged into the black hole; its light is more intense than that of billions of other stars in the cosmos, which is why we're able to see it from so incredibly far away.
But as stated above, the true nature of black holes is yet to be determined, and it's impossible to get up close to one and live to tell the tale! Perhaps some things will remain a mystery, but all that's certain is that the EHT took one breathtaking photograph on Wednesday.