Space and Physics

We Have The Most Accurate Pictures Of Supermassive Black Hole M87* Yet


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockApr 16 2021, 15:50 UTC
M87* in multi-wavelenght

The first-ever image of the event horizon of a black hole made M87* one of the most famous black holes of all time. Image credit: EHT Collaboration

There is strength in numbers and there is also knowledge. The supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy Messier 87 was the first-ever black hole to be directly imaged, thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a network of radio telescopes spanning the whole planet. Now, astronomers have combined data from even more observatories on Earth and in space to expand our understanding of this notorious cosmic giant, publishing the results in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.


"We knew that the first direct image of a black hole would be groundbreaking," co-author Kazuhiro Hada of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, said in a statement. "But to get the most out of this remarkable image, we need to know everything we can about the black hole's behavior at that time by observing over the entire electromagnetic spectrum."

The result is the most comprehensive dataset we have yet on supermassive black hole M87*, which weighs 6.5 billion times our Sun and is located about 55 million light-years from Earth. Observing it in different light can reveal all sorts of different features. 

The images show a jet of material being spewed into space by M87* in wavelengths from radio all the way to gamma-rays and from the vicinity of the black hole to the whole galaxy.

M87* in Various Wavelengths of Light. Image Credit: The EHT Multi-wavelength Science Working Group; the EHT Collaboration; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); the EVN; the EAVN Collaboration; VLBA (NRAO); the GMVA; the Hubble Space Telescope; the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory; the Chandra X-ray Observatory; the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array; the Fermi-LAT Collaboration; the H.E.S.S collaboration; the MAGIC collaboration; the VERITAS collaboration; NASA and ESA

"This incredible set of observations includes many of the world's best telescopes," said co-author Juan Carlos Algaba of the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. "This is a wonderful example of astronomers around the world working together in the pursuit of science."


The observations focused on the period between the end of March to the middle of April 2017, when the EHT took its historic observation. The team that achieved these incredible images is made up of 760 scientists and engineers from nearly 200 institutions in 32 countries or regions, using observatories funded by agencies and institutions around the globe, from ground-based observatories across the planet to NASA missions such as Hubble and Chandra.

This video visualization should give you a feel of the incredible achievement of all the observatories working together.

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