'Ground-breaking' image of black hole celebrated
THE first image of a black hole is "ground-breaking" for science and astronomy, a University of Southern Queensland astronomer says.
The image was released on Wednesday night with data gathered by eight radio telescopes around the world, in a milestone in astrophysics.
It reveals the black hole at the centre of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster. This black hole resides about 54 million light-years from Earth.
Professor Jonti Horner, who researches exoplanets, not black holes, said the release of the photo transcends any one scientific discipline.
"It gets everybody excited," Prof Horner said.
"It's one of those moments in science that transcends any discipline. "It's like the first gravitational wave discovery, or the first exoplanet discovery 30 years ago, it crosses the threshold of what we can do."
He said it even transcended science.
"It shows in a face of a challenge we can overcome it," he said. "There is a real sense of achievement here.
"There are plenty of analogies to put this in perspective, but we're seeing something bigger than ourselves. To get this photo is astonishing."
The research was conducted by the Event Horizon Telescope project, an international collaboration begun in 2012 to try to directly observe the immediate environment of a black hole.
Prof Horner said while it was an incredibly amazing image, it was "kind of what" he expected to see.
"That doesn't make it any less impressive, but it remarkably similar to what we thought it would like it," he said.
"It's something we've never seen before, but our understanding of science is good enough that we were able to predict what we'd see."
- with AAP