1. ITV Report

Cardiff academics help obtain first images of supermassive black hole

The image was collected by 200 scientists using eight radio telescopes around the world Credit: PA Images

Scientists from Cardiff University have helped reveal the first image of a monster black hole - six billion times the mass of the sun.

Using data collected from eight radio telescopes across the world, including academics from the Welsh institution, a team of 200 scientists were able to create an image around the supermassive black hole.

It was photographed by astronomers resembled a flaming orange, yellow and black ring.

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The image reveals a black hole at the centre of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster.

The black hole resides 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5-billion times that of the Sun.

The academics say the shadow of a black hole, silhouetted against a bright disc of hot gas, is the closest they can come to an image of the black hole itself - a completely dark object from which light cannot escape.

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Dr Tim Davis of Cardiff University said: “It’s been a privilege to be one of the first humans to see a black hole directly."

"The extreme gravity from the black hole warps space and time around it, allowing us to see both the front and the back of the superheated disc of gas spinning around it exactly as Einstein’s theory predicted. We are now looking forward to pushing this technique further, studying both the supermassive black hole in our own galactic centre, and other nearby galaxies with EHT.”

  • What is a black hole?

Black holes are extremely compressed cosmic objects, containing incredible amounts of mass within a tiny region. The presence of these objects affects their environment in extreme ways, warping spacetime and super-heating any surrounding material.

The image is the culmination of decades of observational, technical, and theoretical work and will offer scientists a new way to study the most extreme objects in the Universe predicted by Einstein’s general relativity.

EHT project director Sheperd S. Doeleman of the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian said: "We are giving humanity its first view of a black hole — a one-way door out of our Universe.

“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago. Breakthroughs in technology and the completion of new radio telescopes over the past decade enabled our team to assemble this new instrument — designed to see the unseeable."