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NASA astrophysicist says black hole image depicts the 'fabric of our reality'

Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

Humanity got its first glimpse of a black hole on Wednesday, and it looks like a flaming doughnut or a glowing eye. The picture was created with data assembled from eight radio telescopes around the world.

Rochester native and NASA astrophysicist Jeremy Schnittman said the image was an exciting and profound discovery.

"When Einstein says that space-time is curved," Schnittman explained, "that's a nice, intuitive picture, but it turns out that it really is true. This is the very fabric of the underlying nature of our existence."

Schnittman, who graduated from Wilson Magnet High School in 1995, said scientists will next try to understand why the brightest part of the fiery jet around the black hole was located at the bottom of the hole. It was oriented in a different way in a much larger scale.

"So that's kind of our next big question that we're going to be working on and struggling to understand," he noted. "Why does the jet on very large scales look somewhat different than the doughnut would imply that it would look?" 

The picture was made with equipment that detects wavelengths invisible to the human eye, so astronomers added color to convey the ferocious heat of the gas and dust, glowing at a temperature of perhaps millions of degrees. 

Schnittman said he and his NASA colleagues were somewhat surprised that the first image captured of a black hole came from a galaxy 53 million light years from Earth.  They were expecting instead to see a picture of Sagittarius A, the black hole in the center of the Milky Way.

Click on the LISTEN link above to hear an interview with Jeremy Schnittman.

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