The first-ever picture of a black hole is the gift that keeps on giving — in the form of new insights into the dynamics behind the mysterious phenomenon and new evidence that Albert Einstein was right.
The validity of Einstein’s theory of general relativity has been proven time and time again over the course of the past century. But physicists keep coming up with new ideas for tweaking the theory’s equations in unorthodox ways.
To figure out how much leeway there could be for variations on Einstein’s theme, researchers took a closer look at the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy M87.
M87’s black hole, which lies about 55 million light-years from Earth, was featured in a history-making close-up last year, produced by a radio astronomy collaboration known as the Event Horizon Telescope. The achievement is expected to win the EHT collaboration a Nobel Prize as soon as next week.
The team behind the relativity-checking research, published this week in Physical Review Letters, measured the size of the black hole’s shadow — that is, the dark central region from which light rays can’t escape, due to the gravitational pull of a singularity that’s 6.5 billion times as ...