The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

First Image of a Black Hole

Apr 29, 2019

The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.

On April 10, a team of astronomers released the first image ever obtained of a black hole, situated at the center of another galaxy 50 million light-years away.

The image shows a bright halo around the black hole, which is itself invisible. A black hole is an object so massive and dense that light cannot escape from it. But by showing all the material around it, the black hole appears in contrast and is rendered visible. You can see a ring with a very particular form created in the extreme conditions around a black hole, which curves light rays.

What seemed like science fiction has become reality. One hundred years ago, Einstein’s theory of relativity predicted the existence of black holes, but for a long time they were considered hypothetical curiosities. Then, scientists discovered indirect evidence of their existence. Astronomers observed particularly intense emissions of x-rays coming from the centers of galaxies, including ours, and thought that they were probably evidence of giant black holes. In 2016, scientists detected the gravitational waves emitted by the collision of two distant black holes. But this is the first time we have a direct image.

This is very important for scientists because black holes are still very mysterious objects that give us access to conditions that are impossible to reproduce in the laboratory.

This project was made possible by the collaboration over many years of sixty teams of scientists in twenty different countries, of work in common of 200 researchers and other indispensable teams supporting their work. Their work was like building a device so precise that it would allow you to read a newspaper in New York while standing in Paris. This was done by synchronizing with extreme precision a network of eight observatories spread out over four continents, in Arizona, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Hawaii, and near the South Pole, forming together a sort of telescope at the scale of the earth. It was necessary to load the data on specially made hard drives, transported on airplanes, because there was too much information to transmit over the internet.

Social media gave this discovery the face of Katie Bouman, a young, enthusiastic scientist who wrote one of the computer programs that made it possible to build the image. One only has to share her joy in this success to see the forward march of humanity, and gain a perspective of a world without borders that could be ours today. Capitalism, with money and individualism as its sole ideals, its injustices and its barbarity, can only appear more shocking by contrast.