First-Ever Photo of a Black Hole Unveiled

Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.
Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

This story has been updated.

An international team of more than 200 scientists have made history by capturing the first-ever image of a black hole. The much-awaited photo, seen above, was released this morning by the National Science Foundation (NSF) after the agency announced last week that it would be revealing the groundbreaking finding. Previously, the only pictures of black holes were illustrations and simulations that were modeled after everything scientists knew about a black hole’s effect on nearby objects. Since no light escapes these incredibly dense bodies, scientists haven’t been able to directly observe them, let alone photograph them.

But we now know what a black hole looks like, thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project. Researchers linked eight radio observatories around the world to create a “virtual Earth-sized telescope” that was large enough to capture the supermassive black hole at the center of the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy, which is located 54 million light years from Earth. This colossal object is 6.5 billion times more massive than our Sun and has the power to warp space-time and superheat objects in its vicinity.

"We're seeing the unseeable,” NSF Director France Córdova said in a statement. “Black holes have sparked imaginations for decades. They have exotic properties and are mysterious to us. Yet with more observations like this one they are yielding their secrets.”

The ring you see around the black hole is formed by gas and dust as light bends in the black hole’s strong gravitational pull. Orange hues were added to the image because the measurements captured by scientists occurred at a wavelength that’s invisible to the eye. As many have pointed out, the end result looks a little like the Eye of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings.

"If immersed in a bright region, like a disc of glowing gas, we expect a black hole to create a dark region similar to a shadow—something predicted by Einstein's general relativity that we've never seen before," said Heino Falcke, chair of the EHT Science Council.

For more on this groundbreaking achievement, check out the NSF’s news release.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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UFO Sightings Are Up 51 Percent During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With more free time as a result of the pandemic, people have been reporting more UFO sightings.
With more free time as a result of the pandemic, people have been reporting more UFO sightings.
mscornelius/iStock via Getty Images

With an abundance of free time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are increasingly turning their attention to stargazing. Sometimes, they can’t quite believe what they’re seeing.

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, sightings of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, are up 51 percent in 2020 over the same time period in 2019. The data comes from the National UFO Reporting Center, a two-person operation out of Harrington, Washington, which accepts and compiles sightings from individuals and says that more than 5000 incidents have been reported this year.

Peter Davenport, who runs the Center, told the Journal that many UFO sightings can be chalked up to drones, planes, or satellites. But there are nonetheless a number that have no clear origin. Recently, the Navy even released footage of three UFOs spotted by pilots that have no obvious explanation.

In August, the Pentagon announced a task force to study “unexplained aerial phenomena,” or UAPs, another term for what could be alien aircraft surveying humans.

With more time to look skyward, people may find more UFOs or UAPs to pique their curiosity, and 2020 may ultimately end with more believers and fewer skeptics than it started with.

[h/t The Wall Street Journal]