Close to the Monster
Astronomers are getting closer than ever to seeing the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy M87, which is shown here in a combination of radio (red) and X-ray (blue) wavelengths. The image shows "jets" of charged particles shooting away from the black hole, which is about 6.6 billion times as massive as the Sun and three times wider than Pluto's orbit around the Sun. Although the black hole is 50 million light-years away, it is so huge that it presents the best chance for astronomers to actually photograph a black hole's event horizon -- the point of no escape for anything that falls into the black hole. Such an image could be snapped sometime in the next couple of years, according to Texas astronomer Karl Gebhardt, who made the most accurate measurement of the black hole's mass to date. [NASA/CXC/KIPAC/N. Werner, E. Million et al/NRAO/AUI/NSF/F. Owen]
Find out more about M87 in StarDate's Black Holes Encyclopedia.