On Wednesday, the entire world got its first glimpse at one of the universe’s most enduring mysteries: a black hole. The composite image was the result of international collaboration, including contributions from the University of Groningen.
It may seem like an out-of-focus photo of a solar eclipse, but it is the most impressive documentation of the existence of a black hole that has ever been captured. The picture that was seen around the world was a combination of “1,000 hard drives’ worth” of data, according to The Atlantic.
The single image was stitched together from data collected from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which is a global network of eight radio telescopes. “Event horizon” refers to the surface of a black hole, “the boundary of a black hole beyond which nothing can escape from within it.” According to a press release from the University of Groningen, Ronald Hesper from the Faculty of Science and Engineering in involved in the EHT project, along with astronomers from Nijmegen, Amsterdam and Leiden.
Another Dutch organisation called JIVE – the Joint Institute for VLBI ERIC, was also connected to the creation of the image. ERIC VLBI stands for the European Research Infrastructure Consortium and “very-long-baseline interferometry”.
In addition to the telescopes, a range of other equipment and technology was crucial to making the image a reality, namely work by scientists – including Ronald Hesper – in the Netherlands. Specialised equipment from the NOVA submm group – “submm” stands for “submillimetre” – at the University of Groningen played a part in the image’s creation. The Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA) “coordinates and stimulates astronomical research”, according to the University of Groningen website.
The super massive black hole is located in a galaxy named M87, which is 50 million light years away from earth. The revolutionary image was made public at seven simultaneous press conferences held around the world, befitting the international nature of the work that went into capturing the composite image.
Photo source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr