Brace yourself. You can finally see how a black hole looks like. Up until today, no one really knew how a black hole looked like.
Finally, the day has come but it was no easy task.
The newly released image of a black hole (below) is a watershed moment for physics. Finally, we can put some of Einstein’s most famous predictions from a century ago to the test, but it was not as easy as pointing a big lens at the M87 galaxy and pressing a button. It took years of work and the collaboration of more than 200 scientists to make it happen. It also required about half a ton of hard drives.
What’s interesting about how the snapshot of the black hole was the length of time it took to put it together. It took years and a network of telescopes from around the world to capture the first real image of the black hole.
Data collection for the historic black hole image began in 2017 with a coordinated effort called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). That isn’t a single instrument but rather a collection of seven radio telescopes from around the world. The EHT used a principle called interferometry to combine the capacity of all those telescopes, creating a “virtual” telescope the size of the Earth.
The EHT had to collect a huge volume of data to deliver us this one image. Dan Marrone, Associate Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona says the EHT team had to install specialized super-fast data recorders on the various radio telescopes to handle the influx of measurements.
The now-famous image of a black hole comes from data collected over a period of seven days. At the end of that observation, the EHT didn’t have an image — it had a mountain of data.
The data collected was just too massive for the internet to handle. The hard drives had to be flown by plane.
According to Marrone, 5 petabytes is equal to 5,000