In a major scientific breakthrough, the European Space Agency is expected to blow humanity's collective minds by unveiling the first-ever photo of a black hole next Wednesday.
Well, it's not an actual photo of "Sagittarius A*," the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, the actual black hole is invisible thanks to its massive gravitational pull that's so strong, even light can't escape. Instead, scientists have been able to image the chaos that appears just outside the black hole, known as the black hole's 'Event Horizon.' That's the 'point-of-no-return' for anything heading into the black hole and where our knowledge of physics begin to break down.
Because the collaboration was global, the event announcing the team's findings will be too. Six international space agencies will hold press briefings around the world, including in Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo will also be held next Wednesday, a release from the agency said.
Black holes are notoriously difficult objects to photograph - for example, the photo at the top of this article is merely an artist rendering of what scientists believe a black hole looks like. Black holes like Sagittarius A are so dense, they create gravitational pulls that are so strong, they bend light, and space.
While the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy is more than 4 million times larger than our own sun, Sag A* is so far away, even the most powerful telescope on Earth doesn't stand a chance of mapping its event horizon by itself. Gas falling toward the black hole heats up by billions of degrees, illuminating a silhouette of where the black hole is located. But, by the time those light waves reach Earth, a telescope the size of the planet is needed to resolve the image.
The team was able create a planet-sized telescope by using a network of telescopes located around the world, to create the Event Horizon Telescope (think of it as the Voltron of telescopes). The networked telescopes were so powerful, Astronomy.com points out that a person standing in New York City using the ETH could use it to read the writing on a quarter in Los Angeles.
The announcement will be streamed live on the National Science Foundation's website next Wednesday.
If you've got a few minutes and want to learn more about the team's efforts to photograph black holes, the video below is a great summary of the Event Horizon Telescope and how it works.
Photo: Getty Images