The world’s first image of a black hole produced by the collaboration of 347 scientists were honored with the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics on Thursday, winning $3 million for what is known as the “Oscars of science”.
The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration grabbed global headlines on April 10 when they published the first image of a supermassive black hole circled by a flame-orange halo of white-hot plasma.
Led by Shep Doelman at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Center, the team has spent more than a decade simulating an Earth-sized telescope combining the signals received from eight radio telescopes working in pairs around the world with their sights trained on the Messier 87 (M87), 55 million light-years away.
By this technique, they were able to achieve an unprecedented resolution and observe the black hole’s silhouette for the first time in history, confirming theoretical predictions about these celestial objects.
The event horizon of a black hole is the point at which its gravitational effects are strong that light cannot escape its pull. Now in its eighth year, the Breakthrough Prize was launched by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to recognize and reward the world’s top scientists.
“For many years, I would tell people that we were going to image a black hole, and they would say, ‘Well, we’ll believe it when we see it,’ Doelman said in an interview. “But when you finally come with very strong evidence, when you make a breakthrough like this, then you have the satisfaction of really giving birth to a new field. We are now in an era of precision imaging of black holes, we can approach the event horizon and map spacetime for the first time,” he added.
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