First image of a black hole named Science’s Breakthrough of the Year
December 21, 2019
WASHINGTON — The Event Horizon Telescope’s image of a supermassive black hole was named on Thursday by the influential US journal Science as 2019’s Breakthrough of the Year.
The image of the black hole that lies at the center of Messier 87 (M87), a galaxy nearly 55 million light-years from Earth, helps reveal one of the darkest and most elusive phenomena in the known universe.
“Seeing is believing,” said H. Holden Thorp, editor-in-chief of Science journals. “For a skeptical public that often rolls their eyes when they hear scientists say that they know things exist even though they cannot be seen, this is one more important object that we can see.”
A team of more than 200 scientists including Chinese astronomers worked to capture and develop the image, thanks to a global network of eight pre-existing telescopes called Event Horizon Telescope.
“This was a great year for science, but what could be more wondrous than actually seeing a black hole? It sounds like magic, but it was really an astonishing feat of teamwork and technology,” said Tim Appenzeller, Science’s news editor.
Among the nine runners-up of this year’s Breakthroughs is the discovery of the 160,000-year-old fossil of a Denisovan jaw in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China. More than 34,000 Science magazine readers picked up the work done by Chinese and German scientists as the top breakthrough of 2019 for People’s Choice.
The fossil study brought more information about what the human being’s ancient relative looked like, and heralded a potential protein-based revolution in understanding ancient life.