It was described by Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) scientist Heino Falcke as like looking at ‘the gates of hell at the end of space and time’.
But last week’s first ever photograph of a black hole in the centre of the Messier 87 galaxy really was that big, according to Derry’s Dr. Matt Nicholl.
Dr. Nicholl, a Royal Astronomical Society Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said the photograph of the monster black hole 517 quintillion kilometres from Derry had changed science.
“It took years of incredibly painstaking work to capture this image and it is amazing that they managed it.
“By very carefully combining light from telescopes that are far apart, you can make them work like one big telescope with a size equal to the distance between the individual telescopes. The bigger the distance, the better the ‘zoom lens’ you have to see things that are smaller and further away. The degree of zooming in this image is about the same as taking a picture of a football half a million miles away!” he told the ‘Journal.’
Dr. Nicholl said the EHT team had done an amazing job and had dealt with subtle technical challenges like the shifting of the Antarctican ice sheet where one telescope was located.
“These observations are really important because they change black holes from a mathematical idea into a real thing. The new imaging techniques they invented for this experiment will hopefully be used to zoom in on all kinds of things over the coming years.”