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Photo: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

Internet reacts to black hole image in the way that it does

Scientists released the first ever captured image of a black hole and the internet reacted in ways that might surprise no one.

Earlier this week, the team behind the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) – a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes – told the world their work bore fruit.

The breakthrough was announced in a series of six papers published in a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The snap was of the black hole at the centre of a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster called Messier 87. It sits 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5-billion times that of the Sun.

National Science Foundation director France Córdova said black holes have sparked imaginations for decades. “They have exotic properties and are mysterious to us. Yet with more observations like this one they are yielding their secrets.”

At a press conference set up to reveal the team’s work, EHT director Shep Doeleman, a senior research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said: “We have seen what we thought was unseeable.”

Upon unveiling the image to audience applause, Doeleman added: “What you are seeing is evidence of an event horizon. By laying a ruler across this blackhole, we now have visual evidence for a black hole.

“It is the strongest evidence that we have to date for the existence of black holes.”

So how did many of those who tuned in to the news conference react?

With memes. Lots of them.

When the black hole was photographed. from r/SurprisedPikachu

Something perhaps less expected from the internet when the work of research in made public is acclaim for those behind it, but, around the globe, people praised the work of MIT graduate student Katie Bouman for her role in developing a computer algorithm that helped capture the image.

In a post that garnered over 300 thousand likes, one Twitter user compared Bouman’s work to that of computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, who helped write computer code used on the Apollo missions to the Moon.

Bouman took to Facebook to credit the work of the entire team. “No one algorithm or person made this image. It required the amazing talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods, and analysis techniques that were necessary to pull off this seemingly impossible feat.”

Click below to watch the National Science Foundation’s press conference in full.

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