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This Is The Very First Image Of A Black Hole

Image credit: Jean-Pierre Luminet

Black holes are so outlandish that the scientists who first thought them up figured they couldn't possibly exist in reality. They form from massive, collapsed stars and are so dense that nothing can escape their gravitational pull, including light. Black holes mess with spacetime so badly that scientists have long wondered: How do these things look, exactly?

We may be on the cusp of seeing one thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope, but back in 1979, Jean-Pierre Luminet created the first "image" using nothing but an early computer, lots of math and India ink.

The problem with imaging a black hole is that, by definition, they don't emit light or radiation. Luckily, large black holes are usually next to other stars and suck away their matter, something astronomers can see. "As [gases from stars] fall towards the black hole, it becomes hotter and hotter and begins to emit radiation.

This is a good source of light: the accretion rings shine and illuminate the central black hole," writes Luminet in his e-Luminesciences blog.

The distinguishing feature of a black hole is its "event horizon" boundary, the point of no return for matter and light. At its periphery, materials sucked in from adjacent stars form an "accretion disk," famously depicted in Interstellar (below) as two bright, perpendicular disks.

That's just an illusion, though -- there's only one disk at the equator, but the light is bent upward by the black hole's extreme gravity (via gravitation lensing).

Luminet's stunning image depicts two other important phenomena not seen in Interstellar movie.

You can read the complete article here.

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