First-Ever Photo of a Black Hole Unveiled

Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.
Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

This story has been updated.

An international team of more than 200 scientists have made history by capturing the first-ever image of a black hole. The much-awaited photo, seen above, was released this morning by the National Science Foundation (NSF) after the agency announced last week that it would be revealing the groundbreaking finding. Previously, the only pictures of black holes were illustrations and simulations that were modeled after everything scientists knew about a black hole’s effect on nearby objects. Since no light escapes these incredibly dense bodies, scientists haven’t been able to directly observe them, let alone photograph them.

But we now know what a black hole looks like, thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project. Researchers linked eight radio observatories around the world to create a “virtual Earth-sized telescope” that was large enough to capture the supermassive black hole at the center of the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy, which is located 54 million light years from Earth. This colossal object is 6.5 billion times more massive than our Sun and has the power to warp space-time and superheat objects in its vicinity.

"We're seeing the unseeable,” NSF Director France Córdova said in a statement. “Black holes have sparked imaginations for decades. They have exotic properties and are mysterious to us. Yet with more observations like this one they are yielding their secrets.”

The ring you see around the black hole is formed by gas and dust as light bends in the black hole’s strong gravitational pull. Orange hues were added to the image because the measurements captured by scientists occurred at a wavelength that’s invisible to the eye. As many have pointed out, the end result looks a little like the Eye of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings.

"If immersed in a bright region, like a disc of glowing gas, we expect a black hole to create a dark region similar to a shadow—something predicted by Einstein's general relativity that we've never seen before," said Heino Falcke, chair of the EHT Science Council.

For more on this groundbreaking achievement, check out the NSF’s news release.

This Cool T-Shirt Shows Every Object Brought on the Apollo 11 Mission

Fringe Focus
Fringe Focus

NASA launched the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969, ending the space race and beginning a new era of international space exploration. Just in time for the mission's 50th anniversary this year, Fringe Focus is selling a t-shirt that displays every item the Apollo 11 astronauts brought with them to the Moon.

The design, by artist Rob Loukotka, features some of the iconic objects from the mission, such as a space suit and helmet, as well as the cargo that never made it to primetime. Detailed illustrations of freeze-dried meals, toiletries, and maintenance kits are included on the shirt. The artist looked at 200 objects and chose to represent some similar items with one drawing, ending up with 69 pictures in total.

The unisex shirt is made from lightweight cotton, and comes in seven sizes ranging from small to 4XL. It's available in black heather or heather midnight navy for $29.

If you really like the design, the artwork is available in other forms. The same illustration has also been made into poster with captions indicating which pictures represent multiple items of a similar nature.

The International Space Station Will Start Accepting Visitors … For $58 Million

iStock/forplayday
iStock/forplayday

If you've ever wanted to visit the International Space Station, your chance is coming soon—assuming you have a few million set aside. Recently, NASA announced that this orbiting outpost will be open to private citizens starting in 2020.

However, it won't be cheap. According to The Denver Post, each trip could last up to 30 days, and NASA estimates the cost of a round trip at $58 million, as well as an additional $35,000 charge per night. And, it's not just for kicks—you need to have a mission of your own. The space agency is allowing companies that want to conduct commercial or marketing work to send employees to the ISS as long as they meet one of the three requirements:

  • require the unique microgravity environment to enable manufacturing, production, or development of a commercial application;
  • have a connection to NASA's mission; or
  • support the development of a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy

The space station had a visitor back in 2001—Californian businessman Dennis Titobecame history's first space tourist when he spent a week aboard the ISS with two Russian cosmonauts who took him out there on a Russian spacecraft—but this would be a first for NASA. The agency was opposed to training and flying with Tito back in 2001; at the time, NASA administrator Daniel Goldin said, "Space is dangerous. It's not a joyride. Space is not about egos."

Now, NASA is ready to open the shuttle doors to private citizens. In addition to U.S. citizens, those from other countries are eligible to travel as long as they fly on a U.S.-operated rocket. These lucky private astronauts will have to go through the same medical checks, physical training, and certification procedures as crew members before traveling—a process that could take up to two years.

Along with this exciting news, NASA has bigger plans in mind. They are considering the possibility of a private sector company eventually taking control of the station and paying for its expensive upkeep. NASA has yet to announce when this transition would take place, but said in a statement that the "ultimate goal in low-Earth orbit is to partner with industry to achieve a strong ecosystem in which NASA is one of many customers purchasing services and capabilities at lower cost."

In addition, they hope that the revenue will assist in the operational costs for NASA's Artemis program, which is focused on sending astronauts—including the first woman—to the Moon by 2024.

[h/t The Denver Post]

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