The first ever taken photo of a black hole was released by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics on 10 April 2019. The photo was released during six simultaneous news conferences, including one in Washington D.C. (The New York Times). The picture was captured by a network of telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope. The black hole captured is found in galaxy Messier 87, also called M87 by scientists, and is 55 million light years away from earth (Science News).
The picture is so phenomenal because before today, no one- scientist or citizen- had seen a black hole before. These notoriously scary and complex space bodies are widely unknown and have been difficult to study. The picture, displaying a red/orange ring surrounding a black center, confirms not only that black holes exist and are not just theoretical,but also that they are round and extremely massive. This picture opens the door for more discoveries about black holes and new space discoveries in general.
Along with black holes, technology is advancing in a way that allows us to learn new things about space. Just in the past year, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has discovered new asteroids, star clusters, and has tracked the life of storms on the Planet Neptune (NASA). Along with this, a telescope to rival the HST is currently being tested; NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is “sound after completing critical milestones’’ in its mechanical environment testing, and is now being prepared to undergo thermal vacuum testing. The telescope is set to launch in March of 2021 and will explore galaxies, supernovas and more. The more advanced our space technology gets, the more humanity can discover about space.
The fact that so much is being found out about the cosmos is phenomenal, and Sandia students have a chance to participate in it; if you or someone you know has an interest in space, Sandia has a course dedicated to just that. Astronomy is taught by science teacher Jason Olona, and covers all things space, from new discoveries to exactly what black holes are. This course gives students an opportunity to explore their love for astronomy, and decide if that’s something they would want to do long term. CEC also has an astronomy class and their own observatory. Astronomy can be taken as a junior year science credit.