Sunday Best – April 14, 2019

It’s rare that a blurry photo makes the front pages, but this week’s first image of a black hole did just that. For anyone who has not thought about black holes since Astro101, these photos seem to turn myth into reality.

More accurately, they show that it’s possible to see something that can’t be directly observed.

There are several non-astronomical observations we can take from this amazing photo:

* The image is not of the black hole, really, but of its shadow. I’ve been working lately on trying to measure topics that don’t fit neatly into spreadsheets – things like equity, motivation, purpose. We can measure the shadow that these elements cast – and their opposites – even if we can’t see the direct view.

* Initially, researchers thought they’d have to build a giant new telescope to generate these images, which meant years of extra expense and effort. But by coordinating existing telescopes, computers, and researchers all over the world, the image was possible without all that wait (and weight). We might not always need the shiny new object to do something extraordinary.

* When you zoom out, the image is even more incredible. What looks like a fuzzy dot up close is actually embedded in a giant sea of sparks. Even this enormous, intensely powerful thing – almost the size of our entire solar system – is part of a larger whole.

Dear friends, wherever you are tonight, look up! Imagine those sparks, and that shadow —- so far away, and yet now they’ve been seen.

What else might we see together?


Photos from NASA and the Chandra Observatory.

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