Please join me in taking a break from food to marvel at the vastness of our universe. News that astronomers will on Wednesday morning photograph a black hole for the first time is not merely a science story. Yes, it’s very much about science and radio telescopes and Einsteinian equations, but it’s also a moment for all of us to pause and gape in awe together. We, humans, are going to see a black hole for the first time.
That’s if all goes right. Per The New York Times’s reporting, astronomers working with the Event Horizon Telescope should release the first images we’ve ever seen of a black hole on Wednesday at 9 a.m. Eastern Time. There are questions of whether the black holes are rotating, what shape they are, and whether they will spit fireworks-esque “flares of energy.” One of the black holes set to be photographed is at the center of our own galaxy, The Milky Way, and has a mass equivalent to that of 4.1 million suns. There is no way not to find this astounding in a profound, cosmic way.
Even the buttoned-down scientists can’t contain their emotions.
“Yes, I’m definitely excited to see the image!” Daniel Holz, a professor and researcher in astrophysics and cosmology of the University of Chicago, told the Times via email. “It’s not really rational, since I know the math works and the theory has been thoroughly tested. But still, this would be a picture of the real thing, up close and personal. That is super cool.”
It is, to quote the Ph.D. astrophysicist, super cool.
Reporter Dennis Overbye, writing for the Times, sums up both the scientific and philosophical milestone that Wednesday’s images should offer in one of the loveliest paragraphs I’ve recently read: “In such shadows the dreams of physicists die, time ends, space-time, matter and light disappear into the primordial nothing from which they spring, and the ghosts of Einstein and Hawking mingle with history and memory. For the first time, astronomers will be staring down the pipes of eternity.”