First Look at a Black Hole
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On Wednesday morning, astronomers revealed the first-ever picture of a black hole. Altoona Area High School astronomy teacher Jim Krug says the telescopes used to capture the first image of a black hole are a little different than those used at a normal observatory. "A lot of the telescopes that observatories are using for this are literally hundreds of feet wide," Krug said. He says images of the black hole are captured in two ways. "Infrared telescopes will capture the heat of the swirling cloud of gas around the black hole called the accretion disk. Right when things are getting sucked into a black hole they get stretched out and they release X-rays, kind of like an interstellar cry for help, and they would use X-ray telescopes to do that." Astronomers used a procedure called interferometry to compile the image. They used data gathered from eight telescopes around the world over a four-day span. "The way I liken it to students is I will hold up a three-dimensional model of anything and I explain to them that if you see it from multiple vantage points you get a much more complete picture than just looking in one direction, When they link them together they act like one really big telescope and then they basically stack the images using computers." Krug says in a way you're not actually seeing the black hole when looking at the image. "The black hole that you're seeing in the center is not actually the black hole itself That is the boundary past which we can no longer see, because once stuff gets sucked over that boundary even if it's giving off light, the light just gets sucked right into the black hole." Because the black hole is an estimated 53 million light-years away, Krug says it might not exist at this moment in time. "We are literally looking backwards in time over millions of years, so that black hole, if it is there today, might not look anything like the current damage that we received," said Krug.