All you need to know about the history of black holes

Scientists have the first-ever picture of a black hole. Here’s the historical context

illustration of a black hole

BLACK HOLE BIOGRAPHY  The story of how black holes (one illustrated) came to be accepted into the scientific canon is a tale worth recounting.

VCHAL/ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES PLUS

Black holes have been beguiling from the very beginning.

Hinted at as early as the 1780s and predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity, they didn’t get the name we know today until the 1960s. Bizarre beasts that squash gobs of matter into infinitely dense abysses, black holes were once thought to be merely a mathematical curiosity.

But astronomers tallied up evidence for black holes’ existence bit by bit, puzzling over where these behemoths live, how they gulp down matter and what their existence means for other physics theories. For more than a decade, a team of researchers has been engrossed in an ambitious effort to snap a picture of a black hole for the very first time. And now they’ve done it. What better time to think back to black holes’ origins and the journey so far?

Read another version of this story at Science News for Students

Emily Conover

Emily Conover is the physics writer. She has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago. She is a two-time winner of the D.C. Science Writers’ Association Newsbrief award.

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