Astronomers have revealed the first image of a black hole. The event is a massive scientific achievement and further goes on to prove Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, which is huge, especially considering the theory is over a century-old. In 2014, Christopher Nolan released Interstellar, which at the time, was heralded for its scientific accuracy. One of the movie's most memorable scenes is when the black hole was revealed. The director wanted it to look as realistic as possible, so he had famous physicist Kip Thorne on board to help with that.
Kip Thorne used theoretical equations in order to approximate what a black hole could look like if one was close to it. Now that astronomers have finally proven black holes are real and provided photographic evidence, it looks like Thorne and Christopher Nolan came pretty close, though the director took some visual liberties when showing his version on the big screen. At first glance, they may not look similar, but Thorne was able to show the accretion disks made up of gas and dust illuminated and swirling around the black hole.
The black hole is 55 million light years away from Earth in the Messier 87, or M87 galaxy. The image was made through the use of 8 telescopes from around the world, working to make a composite image of the massive shadow. In reality, it's a silhouette of the supermassive black hole, which has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Earth's sun. While the Interstellar image is noticeably different, the science behind it is sound and almost there, according to Kazunori Akiyama, postdoctoral researcher at the MIT Haystack Observatory.
Kip Thorne wrote a companion book to Interstellar and explained the science behind the movie. The accretion disk circling the black hole is "anemic and at low temperature-about the temperature of the surface of the sun," according to Thorne, which is why we're able to see the gas and dust surrounding the real image of the black hole. It's pretty amazing that Thorne did his calculations based on Albert Einstein's theory of relativity for a movie and got pretty close to what a real black hole looks like. As far as the line going through Christopher Nolan's version, it just isn't visible from the official image due to the angle, according to Kazunori Akiyama, who compared it to looking at Saturn from above, noting its rings don't go through the planet at that specific angle.
The light coming closer to Earth would be a lot brighter than the light moving away, which is what the M87 image shows. Christopher Nolan's would be brighter because they are closer to the supermassive black hole. One key difference, besides Nolan's lens flare, is the fact that the M87 shows a thicker accretion disk from what Kip Thorne originally thought. High Life, starring Robert Pattinson also shows a black hole and they got it pretty close too, thanks to "cosmic consultant" Aurelien Barrau. You can check out the black hole image below, thanks to the CNN Twitter account.
The M87 #BlackHole photo revealed today is the first visual proof of Einstein's theory of general relativity. Christopher Nolan's team of scientists and visual effects artists did a pretty amazing job of predicting what a black hole might actually look like in 'Interstellar'. pic.twitter.com/BhZL2aci0x— Adam Rackoff (@AdamRackoff) April 10, 2019