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outer space

This is the first-ever photo of a black hole

After a week of building anticipation, scientists have finally revealed the first-ever photo of a black hole.

The European Space Agency initially announced last Monday that six international space agencies would hold press conferences to present the result from the Event Horizon Telescope project, which has been working on capturing a photo of nearby black holes for more than a decade.

Black holes are made up of a large amount of matter squeezed into a very small space, NASA explains, and their gravitational pull is so strong that even light can't escape. That's why it's been so hard to photograph one before. But the Event Horizon Telescope project uses several different radio telescopes around the world, employing a method called "very-long-baseline inferometry" (VLBI for short) to combine the information from those telescopes and get a high-resolution image that a single telescope can't produce.

The result is this a groundbreaking image of a black hole in a nearby galaxy called M87. Though the black hole itself can't be seen, the "event horizon" is what's visible: the point after which no matter can possibly escape the black hole. At the event horizon, there is a bright halo of light getting sucked inward by the black hole's immense gravitational pull.

The black hole strikes an imposing image against the darkness, looking a little like the eye of Sauron out in space. To learn more, watch the National Science Foundation's press conference at their website.