- Video report by ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent
Astronomers have revealed the first image of a monster black hole, which is six billion times the mass of the sun.
Using data collected from eight radio telescopes across the world, a team of 200 scientists were able to create an image around the supermassive black hole.
The supermassive black hole which was photographed by astronomers resembled a flaming orange, yellow and black ring.
Sheperd Doeleman of Harvard said: "We have seen what we thought was unseeable. We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole. Here it is."
The team looked at two supermassive black holes, the M87, and the one at the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy.
The first picture is of the M87 black hole, about 53 million light years from earth.
One light year is around 5.9 trillion miles, or 9.5 trillion kilometers. This black hole is about six billion times the mass of our sun.
The Event Horizon Telescope project was launched in April 2017, but the hundreds of terabytes collected took scientists years to process.
The one in our galaxy is closer but much smaller, so they both look the same size in the sky. But the more distant one was easier to take pictures of because it rotates more slowly.
"We've been hunting this for a long time," Dempsey said. "We've been getting closer and closer with better technology."
What are black holes?
Black holes are regions where matter has been crushed by gravity to an infinitely small space where the normal laws of physics no longer apply.
While nothing can escape the gravitational vortex of a black hole – not even light – gas and radiation rage in a swirling eddy around the brink of the abyss.
It is this point-of-no-return precipice, called the Event Horizon, that astronomers managed to capture of photograph of for the first time.
Unlike smaller black holes that come from collapsed stars, supermassive black holes are mysterious in origin.
What did scientists find?
What the image shows is gas and dust circulating around the black hole, at a distance just safe enough for the matter not to be sucked in.
Taken over four days when astronomers had "to have the perfect weather all across the world and literally all the stars had to align," the image helps confirm Einstein's general relativity theory, Dempsey said.
Einstein a century ago even predicted the symmetrical shape that scientists just found, she said.
"It's circular, but on one side the light is brighter," Dempsey said. That's because that light is approaching Earth.
The project may also help scientists struggling to marry together two apparently incompatible pillars of physics, Einstein’s theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics.
The first relates to laws of nature on cosmic scales, while the second governs the weird world of subatomic particles where it is possible to be in two places at once.
Physicist and black hole expert Lia Medeiros, from the University of Arizona, US, told ScienceNews magazine: “If general relativity buckles at a black hole’s boundary, it may point the way forward for theorists.”
The EHT’s other target, M87, is notable for shooting out a fast jet of charged subatomic particles that stretches for some 5,000 light years.
The new observations are expected to provide clues about M87’s magnetic field, which may be linked to the jet mechanism.