“… if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
Not very long after we got an image of the supermassive black hole at the center of another galaxy, we have been blessed with a view of the one at the center of our own.
If you’ve seen the movie Interstellar, Disney’s The Black Hole, watched any number of science fiction shows and movies, or read science fiction novels, you’ve got an idea of what a black hole is — the remnants of a collapsed star whose gravity and mass are so intense that not even light can escape. It’s a place where time and space are bent into shapes we can barely imagine. It’s genuinely like glimpsing a multiverse of madness (hey, that sounds like a great name for a movie), but it’s madness created by nature.
A supermassive black hole lurks, so far as we know, at the heart of every galaxy.
And while we cannot “see” a black hole, we can see the effects it has on stars near it, and we’re getting glimpses of the matter swirling around it as it plunges into its dark heart, to a fate we don’t know.
The one at the center of our galaxy has a mass of 4 million of our suns. But now, we’ve finally been able to see an image of it, thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope, a partnership of observatories all over the earth, working together as if they’re one earth-sized telescope. It’s the culmination of the work of more than 300 scientists at 80 institutions and eight telescopes, including one at the South Pole.
Will we ever find a way to peer inside? It’s not likely, at least until science is far more advanced than we can imagine now. And if we gaze into that abyss, what, if anything, will be gazing back?