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We’re probably about to see the first-ever photograph of a black hole

Updated Apr 3rd, 2019 5:40PM EDT
black hole photo
Image: NASA

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Black holes are so strange that they’re kind of hard to wrap your brain around. They’re super-dense objects with gravitational pull so strong that nothing can escape them and, while we know they exist, astronomers have never actually photographed one. Weird, right?

When it comes to spotting a black hole the distance is really what is holding humanity back. The nearest supermassive black hole to Earth is thought to be situated at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, but that’s a long, long stretch for modern telescope technology. Other, smaller black holes are much closer, but still very difficult to spot.

Now, researchers using a novel planet-wide imaging technique designed specifically to spot closer black holes are planning to make a major announcement, and there’s really only one thing it could be.

The announcement, which we believe will be the release of the first-ever images of an actual black hole, is an incredibly big deal. It’s so big, in fact, that astronomers will be holding six individual press conferences to present the research in multiple countries around the world, from Belgium to Tokyo to Washington D.C., and “extensive supporting audiovisual material” will be released at the same time.

The work was made possible by a network of telescopes around the world that collectively make up what is called the Event Horizon Telescope. The idea is that by combining the power of telescope positioned at different places on the planet, the team creates what is basically a virtual “Earth-sized” telescope capable of peering far deeper into the galaxy than ever before.

The research has been ongoing for over a decade, but as the telescope gains power it is capable of more advanced imaging, and it seems it’s reached a point where capturing images of a black hole is possible.

If the large astronomy team behind the work is indeed prepared to show us a real black hole for the first time it’ll be an incredible day, and we can’t wait to see it.