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Black holes are cosmic prisons, where nothing escapes, not light or even data. But lots did come out of Wednesday's first image of the shadowy edge of a supermassive black hole. Here are four things we learned:
Scientists have known for decades that black holes exist, but only indirectly. Three years ago, they essentially heard the sound of two smaller black holes crashing together to form a gravitational wave. The image revealed Wednesday showed the edges of the black hole—called the "event horizon"—for the first time.
Holdouts - Holes - Boston - University - Astronomer
There actually were a few academic holdouts who denied black holes existed, but now they can't, said Boston University astronomer Alan Marscher, who was on one of four imaging teams.
The new image shows a glowing ring that was obviously a black hole and its surroundings, said Harvard's Sheperd Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope team.
Something - Doeleman - Something - Ring - Phrase
"We saw something so true," Doeleman said. "We saw something that really had a ring to it if you can use that phrase."
He said the team "uncovered part of the universe that was off-limits to us."
Astrophysics - Discovery - Decades - Tends - Albert
Each major astrophysics discovery of the last few decades tends to confirm Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity. It's a comprehensive explanation of gravity that the former patent clerk thought of in 1915 before computers and with much weaker telescopes.
On Wednesday, Einstein's predictions about the shape and glow of a big black hole proved right, and astronomer after astronomer paid homage to the master.
Today - Relativity - Test - University - Waterloo
"Today general relativity passed another crucial test," said University of Waterloo astronomer Avery Broderick, a co-discoverer. "The Einstein equations are beautiful. So often in my experience, nature wants to be beautiful".''
It sounds strange to keep saying Einstein is right, but every time his general relativity theory is confirmed, "we kill a cloud of alternative theories" and gain better understanding how to create an...
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