The M87 Black Hole announcement


I look forward to the TMRO discussion on the M87 black hole announcement. If TMRO is looking for ways to energize the geek-neurons of their Citizens, the M87 announcement is surely part of that recipe.

Luckily my schedule allowed me to watch some of the live announcement event. Here are some of my thoughts (in no particular order):

  • Yes, this is a big thing, deserving of attention.

  • That said, I seem concerned over the “produced” nature of the whole thing. Why does “science” need to have flashy pre-announcements for a week prior, and then glitzy events to convey this kind of thing? I feel all of that “production” truly detracts from the meaningfulness, and tends to pull science down towards the level of “entertainment tonight”.

  • Some of the press questions/comments during the live event seemed quite insightful, and sparked great, descriptive replies from the panel; some of the press questions/comments were unfortunate (I greatly paraphrase to: “wow, awesome” or “wow, epic”). (Sorry, perhaps my observation is not fair.)

  • Yikes… does this story fit into TMRO:Space or TMRO:Science? Both!

  • I really like how the observation was innovated into global VLBA interferometry. The requirement of course was that the M87-observation conditions (weather) at the designated range of locations around the Earth all had to be good at the same time.

  • I really like how the simulations we have all seen for a long time (an energetic, rotating emission-ring) agree with what was imaged.

  • And of course, I like the global collaborative effort, the fact that they had to install custom high-speed sensors at each telescope location, and that there is evidence of rotation seen.

  • The result: exposing a part of the universe previously thought invisible (the image of the event horizon ring).

  • After a few observation days, 5-petabytes of data (they said comparable to 5000 years of MP3 files). “There is no internet that can compete with transferring 5-petabytes of data just by putting it on a plane”.

  • The image is a “shadow” of the event horizon of photos that “just” escaped the gravitational hole. It is a silhouette.

  • Stop: Don’t read about this in the popular press. Actually watch the announcement.

So… with this forum post, I attempt to energize/ ignite / fire-up some of the interest of other TMRO citizens for a fun discussion (and to propose a possible TMRO episode).

NOTE: Very sorry, the youtube link of the live announcement I seem to have points to Global News. You might instead look for a recording of the live event from NSF - National Science Foundation.

1 Like


Short follow-up:

National Science Foundation (NSF)

NASA Spaceflight Forum (by gigantic coincidence, another NSF acronym)

1 Like


Jared likes the optical jets emitted. Digital cameras are limited spectographicaly, but can still see some of energy (and particles).



I’ve already claimed it for 4/17’s Space News.

Especially happy about this because M87 is included in our “Big Picture” exhibit at Griffith, another neat thing we can talk about with the public: Griffith Observatory - The Big Picture