Science

Darkness Visible, Finally: Astronomers Capture First Ever Image of a Black Hole

The first image of a black hole, from the galaxy Messier 87.CreditCredit Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, via National Science Foundation

The first image of a black hole, from the galaxy Messier 87.CreditCredit
Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, via National Science Foundation

Astronomers announced on Wednesday that at last they had captured an image of the unobservable: a black hole, a cosmic abyss so deep and dense that not even light can escape it. For years, and for all the mounting scientific evidence, black holes have remained marooned in the imaginations of artists and the algorithms of splashy computer models of the kind used in Christopher Nolan's outer-space epic “Interstellar.” Now they are more real than ever.

“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” said Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and director of the effort to capture the image, during a Wednesday news conference in Washington, D.C. The image, of a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of a galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from Earth, resembled the Eye of Sauron, a reminder yet again of the implacable power of nature. It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.

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Madonna Series

In an age in which liberal churches and synagogues see membership declining and fundamentalist ones grow as they fan hostility to science, it is refreshing to find an artist who uses historical genetics as the basis for a new concept of holiness. Chris Twomey combines her skills as painter and photographer to reinvent and democratize the Madonna ideal by combining joyous photographs of very particular mothers with their naked babies on one hand with graphic evocations of cell structure and mapped intercontinental migrations of mitochondrial DNA on the other.