Is This an Actual Photograph of a Black Hole?
Viral posts featured a purportedly larger, more complete image of a black hole, photographed for the first time in April 2019.
On April 10 2019 the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) captured the first image of a black hole in history, making worldwide headlines:
This is what a black hole looks like.
A world-spanning network of telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope zoomed in on the supermassive monster in the galaxy M87 to create this first-ever picture of a black hole.
“We have seen what we thought was unseeable. We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole,” Sheperd Doeleman, EHT Director and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., said April 10  in Washington, D.C., at one of seven concurrent news conferences. The results were also published in six papers in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“We’ve been studying black holes so long, sometimes it’s easy to forget that none of us have actually seen one,” France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation, said in the Washington, D.C., news conference. Seeing one “is a Herculean task,” she said.
A popular image of the black hole accompanied most articles and posts:
— National Science Foundation (@NSF) April 10, 2019
I know no one probably cares but here’s the first real life image of a supermassive blackhole. Not an artist rendering, an actual image. pic.twitter.com/KptaRFMjwP
— Drake (@DrizzyDrake199) April 10, 2019
A Facebook post featuring the image read:
Most news outlets are only showing the blurry zoomed in picture of the black hole so I’m posting the entire zoomed-out image of the black hole and everything it is consuming. The tiny black spec in this image is 6.5 billion times the size of our sun. This thing is HUGE.
This dark portrait of the event horizon was obtained of the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy Messier 87 (M87 for short) by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), an international collaboration whose support includes the National Science Foundation. This achievement is certainly a breakthrough, and we at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory congratulate and applaud the hundreds of scientists, engineers, and others who worked on the Event Horizon Telescope to obtain this extraordinary result.
As is well documented in today’s announcement, it took a remarkable effort and coordination from scientists and organizations around the world to even have a chance to make this happen. The result being heralded stems from an observing campaign during April 2017, when this global network of radio dishes observed M87 together.
But Chandra was not just a bystander! Rather, thanks to heroic efforts by schedulers at Chandra, EHT, and NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission, as well as by the EHT’s Multiwavelength Working Group, Chandra was used to observe M87 and other targets during the EHT campaign. While Chandra can’t see the shadow itself, its field of view is much larger than the EHT’s, so Chandra can view the full length of the jet of high-energy particles launched by the intense gravitational and magnetic fields around the black hole. This jet extends more than 1,000 light years from the center of the galaxy.
A caption for the image read:
Chandra X-ray, Center of M87
Credit: NASA/CXC/Villanova University/J. Neilsen
Although the image from Chandra is not a zoomed-out version of the same photograph that was released on April 10 2019, both are legitimate.