First black hole image – UCLan’s part in Event Horizon project

The first image of a black hole (Credit: EHT Collaboration)

Astronomers have taken the first ever image of a black hole with help from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Using eight telescopes from across the world, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) researchers synchronised timings between the telescopes to make one Earth-sized telescope and pointed them towards the black hole.

One of these telescopes was the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, which is financed by UCLan along with the East Asian Observatory.

Professor Derek Ward-Thompson expressed his joy with the news (Credit: James Barnett)

UCLan’s Professor Derek Ward-Thompson, who worked on the project, told Uclan Live: “Clearly this is a historical moment in science.

“Until a few years ago, this would have been considered science-fiction and suddenly, today it’s become science-fact.

“This is going to be one of the scientific results of this decade.”

The black hole seen in the image is at the centre of Messier 87, a galaxy in 55 million light-years away from Earth.

In order for the EHT researchers to generate the image, they had to record data from all telescopes at the exact same time, which they achieved by using atomic clocks.

Atomic clocks are the most accurate devices for measuring time and are used as the standards for time measurement internationally.

EHT project director, Sheperd S. Doeleman said: “This is an extraordinary scientific feat accomplished by a team of more than 200 researchers.

“Many of the features of the observed image match our theoretical understanding surprisingly well.”

What is a black hole?

A black hole is a region of space where matter is densely packed into a small area, creating an immense gravitational pull.

The gravity created by a black hole is so powerful, light can be pulled in.

The data collected as part of the project was so substantial, it amounted to more than the amount that travels on the internet each day.

As a result, the researchers had to carry the data by hand in suitcases to a centralised location, in order to collate what they had found, as the internet isn’t fast enough to deal with the amount of data they required.

Details about the project were published on April 11 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.