The Jeremiah Horrocks Lecture: How to take a picture of a black hole

The Jeremiah Horrocks Lecture -May 2019

How to take a picture of a black hole

Professor Derek Ward-Thompson Jeremiah Horrocks , UCLan

Wednesday 8th May 2019 7.00pm

Darwin Lecture Theatre University of Central Lancashire

Refreshments available from 6pm in Darwin Foyer

A black hole is an extreme region of space that contains so much matter in such a small region that it curves the very essence of space itself. The speed needed to escape from a black hole is greater than the speed of light, so once something has fallen into a black hole it can never get out, because nothing travels faster than light.

This talk will describe how, for the first time ever, we took an actual picture of a black hole – something that was thought to be in the realms of science fiction only a few years ago. This is because a black hole doesn’t emit any light or reflect any light.

But now the event horizon around a black hole has been imaged – the last place from which light can escape. This was made possible by connecting together 8 different telescopes across the earth to make the equivalent of one single earth-sized telescope. It is so powerful that it could resolve an object only a few centimetres across on the surface of the Moon.

The black hole imaged is the size of our entire solar system – except that it is 55 million light years away. One of the 8 telescopes is the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, which is part-owned by the University of Central Lancashire, and Professor Derek Ward-Thompson has worked on the imaging team to make the picture.

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