Get your chicest space suit ready: Scientists have released the first image of a black hole ever taken today, and it has us in our feelings. Using a global network of telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHT), researchers at the National Science Foundation were able to capture photos of, yes, a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy called Messier 87, near the Virgo galaxy cluster. It is 55 million light-years from Earth and its mass is 6.5 billion times more than our sun. NBD!
What is a black hole again, you ask, having forgotten eighth-grade science? It is made up of huge amounts of matter squeezed into a small space, which creates a gravitational field so powerful that the black hole pulls everything around it inside, including light. That creates the photon ring seen in the image, which is succinctly described as—you guessed it—a black hole. But before today, all of this was conceptual; never had we been able to actually see what this terrifying force looks like.
Immediately, the Internet reacted to the first image of a black hole ever, a thing that could suck our whole universe into it (or something like that): Is it an orange glazed donut? Is it the eye of Sauron? Can it take us with it before 2020? Of course, there is the beauty of vast, unknowable galaxies and our profoundly minuscule place in it. . .and then there’s Twitter.