Wednesday, researchers with The Event Horizon Telescope project released the first-ever photograph of a black hole, more than a century after Albert Einstein theorized their existence.
The photograph is a huge step forward, marking the culmination of a century's work of scientific theory.
So naturally, people had lots of questions once the news began to trend online.
Meet Leah Crane.
She's a space and physics reporter with New Scientist who decided to answer questions in conjunction with the photograph's release.
It all started when the New Scientist Twitter account offered to answer as many questions as possible once the results of the research team's findings were published.
We're counting down to the release of the first results from the Event Horizon Telescope today. While we wait, we w… https://t.co/pCza2asxwW— New Scientist (@New Scientist)1554893409.0
The questions came in rather speedily.
@newscientist What if there is no black holes?— ALFAIFI SUAD (@ALFAIFI SUAD)1554894892.0
@22susu22 @newscientist We are pretty sure that there are black holes - we hadn't observed any directly until 2015… https://t.co/HYhdDlIUKp— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554900277.0
In case you've ever wondered about getting sucked into a black hole...
@newscientist What's the probability of our solar system, including planet Earth, being sucked by a blackhole? When is it likely to occur?— Guru - eTestZone.com (@Guru - eTestZone.com)1554894821.0
@Equateall @RMR7_ @newscientist Our galaxy has about 100 million relatively small (the mass of a star) black holes,… https://t.co/Ccanfj072F— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554900379.0
In case you're wondering what dying by black hole would be like...
@newscientist Is it true that with a smaller black whole you would get ripped apart when you hit the event horizon… https://t.co/0IvaPXJsgU— PUG MASTER 22🇺🇸 (@PUG MASTER 22🇺🇸)1554897573.0
@22Pug @newscientist You're pretty much going to die either way. But yes, this is about right - with a smaller blac… https://t.co/bNCXH91gOP— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554900617.0
Soon the now famous photograph made its debut...
We've got the first image of a black hole. The fact that this is possible is absolutely incredible. Amazing. The EH… https://t.co/QFcAmq7UpS— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554902886.0
...and with it came even more questions, like:
"How did we even manage this?"
How is it possible that a picture of a black hole was taken? I always thought that a black sucks everything in, inc… https://t.co/uYoDL5UnF1— Mannie (@Mannie)1554901434.0
@brah_Skhokho The picture is of the black hole's silhouette against the bright material circling it. You're right,… https://t.co/jEPJa1lvOh— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554903103.0
In case you're wondering about that brightness...
@newscientist Why is it brighter on one side? Are we closer to the bright side?— harold wynne (@harold wynne)1554902686.0
@har38 @newscientist It's brighter on one side because it's rotating - the light that's coming toward us appears br… https://t.co/lZyejhPYGP— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554903264.0
Oh, and about that rotation...
@DownHereOnEarth @har38 @newscientist what is rotating? the accretion disk or the blackhole? is it a kerr black hole or not?— Marcus Strom (@Marcus Strom)1554904664.0
@strom_m @har38 @newscientist From this image, we can't be totally sure whether it's just the accretion disk rotati… https://t.co/ZtkhX5nTgx— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554904818.0
Where IS that event horizon we keep hearing about?
@newscientist Where is the event horizon? Inside the orange ring meeting the black area?— Gene (@Gene)1554902180.0
@flylinuxinspace @newscientist The event horizon is in that black area - the black area is the shadow of the black… https://t.co/YMqhwDKTYK— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554903786.0
In case you're wondering about this discovery's scientific impact...
@newscientist How exactly the new discovery and Theories will impact Quantum Mechanics and General relativity? And… https://t.co/fOvElWbDpt— ✨❗•A•❗✨ (@✨❗•A•❗✨)1554900155.0
@__ArcadianX @newscientist So far, the new image is consistent with general relativity! The hope is that eventually… https://t.co/bleRTM2CxR— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554903993.0
And what about the singularity?
@newscientist Does the singularity have any size? Black holes have different mass. Some of them are millions of tim… https://t.co/wqhB6PJ76o— Bartosz Janiszewski (@Bartosz Janiszewski)1554900615.0
@MrMortarz @newscientist The singularity itself is infinitely small, but the size of the entire black hole (the are… https://t.co/Pww1lywHe9— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554904091.0
On the subject of energy...
@DownHereOnEarth @MrMortarz @newscientist Is the energy “locked up” in a black hole still counted as part of the ov… https://t.co/NRvvsJ07Kb— Ken Goodwin (@Ken Goodwin)1554905573.0
@KenGoodwinITV @MrMortarz @newscientist The energy in a black hole still counts, because the black hole is still in… https://t.co/xhWdUaSJ6V— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554905782.0
And what about Hawking radiation?
@newscientist Has hawking radiation actually been observed near a real blackhole and not in some laboratory conditions?— Persona~ lie of everyone. (@Persona~ lie of everyone.)1554896805.0
@Chimchim916 @newscientist Hawking radiation has never been observed - for now, it is a purely theoretical quantum effect.— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554904249.0
And what about spiral galaxies?
@newscientist does every spiral galaxy have one at its center?— alex foti (@alex foti)1554895115.0
@alexfoti @newscientist Yes, we think that pretty much all galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centres!… https://t.co/9ZNKXhudkf— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554904328.0
What came first?
@DownHereOnEarth @alexfoti @newscientist Which came first the blackhole or the galaxy?— John Detlefs (@John Detlefs)1554905874.0
@jdetle @alexfoti @newscientist We don't know which came first! Big clouds of gas could collapse to form galaxies a… https://t.co/Ru2UIGfnNd— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554906467.0
Where does all this stuff actually go?
@newscientist Where do particles and objects sucked into black holes go ?— Independent thinker (@Independent thinker)1554894329.0
@blazet @newscientist They don't exactly go anywhere - their constituent particles just become part of the black ho… https://t.co/oo3tB7hZHh— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554904396.0
And do black holes actually grow?
@DownHereOnEarth @blazet @newscientist Does its size and mass increase portionately to the size of whatever falls into it?— Mz Scarlette (@Mz Scarlette)1554906370.0
@MzScarlette @blazet @newscientist Yep! A black hole grows as stuff falls into it (just like a person gets a little… https://t.co/lljgazIjxB— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554906541.0
How hot is this thing?
@newscientist What is the Temperature of a Black Hole?— THE REAL JP (@THE REAL JP)1554894284.0
@1TheRealJP @newscientist The area just outside a black hole (the bright bit of the black hole picture) is extremel… https://t.co/mP3pyyiau8— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554904731.0
But what about Sagittarius A*?
@newscientist why didn't they release a picture of Sagittarius A*? Is that still in the works? @DownHereOnEarth #EHTBlackHole— Conrad Quilty-Harper (@Conrad Quilty-Harper)1554905424.0
@Coneee @newscientist They've focused all their energy so far on making this image of M87 (which is easier by virtu… https://t.co/a0HnLtcz5K— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554905706.0
We'd love to know the difference.
@DownHereOnEarth How is a supermassive black hole more massive than a regular black hole? The singularity at the ce… https://t.co/yBrocWR9Xg— Rowan Hooper (@Rowan Hooper)1554906437.0
@rowhoop The singularity is infinitely dense, but not infinitely massive (just infinitely small). So the singularit… https://t.co/YGPHYdnRz6— Leah Crane (@Leah Crane)1554906795.0
Crane eventually had to stop answering questions—she, like most of us, had to get back to work—but we greatly appreciate the time she spent demystifying one of science's most fascinating achievements.