Roughly every 100,000 years, there's a supervolcano explosion somewhere in the world, the consequences of which can be fatal. If the volcano below Yellowstone National Park were to erupt, it would result in worldwide hunger and a volcanic winter (the cooling of the lower atmosphere). According to UN estimates reported by The Guardian, an eruption could leave us with just enough food reserves for exactly 74 days.
In the debate over whether human beings should set off to other worlds beyond Earth, one of the most compelling cons is this: Our bodies don’t like it. Few people know this better than Scott Kelly, the NASA astronaut who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station from 2015 to 2016. Like other astronauts, Kelly served as a test subject in the study of space travel’s effects on the human body. Unlike other astronauts, Kelly has an identical twin, Mark, an astronaut himself.
Some may not be impressed by the slight blurriness of the image. But there’s so much more to it than what immediately meets the eye. Two astrophysicists — Sheperd Doeleman, the project leader of the Event Horizon Telescope, and Katie Mack of North Carolina State University, who was not involved with the effort — walked me through a few of the coolest aspects of the image that helped me appreciate just wonderfully mind-blowing it is.
The newly released image of a black hole (below) is a watershed moment for physics. Finally, we can put some of Einstein’s most famous predictions from a century ago to the test, but it was not as easy as pointing a big lens at the M87 galaxy and pressing a button. It took years of work and the collaboration of more than 200 scientists to make it happen. It also required about half a ton of hard drives.
The scientifically-inclined members of the 115th Congress included one physicist, one microbiologist, and one chemist, as well as eight engineers and one mathematician. The medical professions were slightly better represented, with three nurses and 15 doctors, as well as at least three veterinarians.
Imaging a supermassive black hole takes a massive amount of funding; the EHT program lists its "key funders" as the United States' National Science Foundation, the European Union's European Research Council, and funding agencies in East Asia. According to a statement from the European Commission, the ERC funded three of the leading scientists and their teams. It's also the primary sponsor of the $15.7 million BlackHoleCam project, whose investigators partnered with the EHT team to measure and finally capture the M87's black hole.
A project called the Event Horizon Telescope delivered a fuzzy view of the dark monster at the center of an elliptical galaxy known as M87. The edge of the black hole’s dark circle, known as the event horizon, was surrounded by the bright glare of superheated material falling into the black hole.
The light that makes up the image is not coming from the black hole – black holes do not emit any light, hence the name. Instead, the image shows the black hole’s silhouette against a background of hot, glowing matter that is being inexorably pulled in by its powerful gravity.
We have peered into the abyss for the very first time. The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which uses a network of telescopes around the globe to turn all of Earth into an enormous radio telescope, has taken the first direct image of a black hole.
LIGO is back at it. Having just turned back on after months of upgrades on 1 April, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory has already spotted another pair of black holes colliding. Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time that occur whenever massive objects move, like the wake behind a boat travelling across a lake.