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An Earth-Sized Telescope Just Snapped Two Pictures

The problem with trying to observe black holes
is they’re really dark. They don’t release the light from anything
they swallow, and anything coming from their surfaces is way too dim to see. Also, black holes are so relatively tiny that
it would take a telescope as wide as Earth to even resolve the difference between the
edge of the biggest black hole in our galaxy and the swirling gas around it. So we’ve only detected black holes indirectly,
based on their gravity. But soon we might have the first ever direct
image of one, thanks to some astronomers with an Earth-sized telescope. It’s a project called the Event Horizon
Telescope, or the EHT. But it’s not like there’s a huge, mechanical
second Earth floating around in space somewhere. Instead, it’s a network of radio telescopes
around the world that act like one virtual telescope. Eight of these telescopes have spent a little
over a week working simultaneously to collect huge amounts of data. They looked at the supermassive black hole
in the center of our galaxy and the one in the center of the galaxy M87. A lot of a telescope’s strength comes from
its width, so looking at something with telescopes on opposite ends of the Earth is a lot like
looking with a single telescope as wide as the whole planet. Except it’s a lot easier to build. The Event Horizon team wants to use these
telescopes to see the event horizons of black holes – the points-of-no-return for anything
falling in. Supermassive black holes are usually surrounded
by rapidly orbiting clouds of gas and dust called accretion disks. And light from quickly moving objects gets
concentrated in the direction they’re moving, so accretion disks are sort of like lighthouses. They look really bright where gas and dust
particles are moving toward us, and dimmer where they’re not. Researchers also expect to see light from
the parts of accretion disks behind black holes, because the light’s path will get
bent by the extreme gravity. Images of black holes could help us learn
about things like why M87’s black hole has huge jets of particles coming out while our
galaxy’s doesn’t. And the shape of the dark parts of black holes,
called shadows, will also teach us a lot about how gravity acts in a regime that we’ve
never tested before. If the shadows aren’t nearly a perfect circle,
that could mean there’s something wrong with our current theory of gravity. Now, the EHT has gathered massive amounts
of data over the last week, so it’s going to take a while to analyze it all and hopefully
produce an image. But we could have the first-ever sharp picture
of a black hole by sometime in 2018. This other news is another first that you
probably saw some headlines about. Maybe even some misleading headlines. A European team of astronomers announced the
first detection of an atmosphere on an exoplanet that’s about the same size as Earth in The
Astronomical Journal. Which is exciting! But detecting an atmosphere doesn’t necessarily
mean there’s life. Exoplanets are planets orbiting stars other
than the Sun, and their atmospheres are incredibly hard to detect. One way to do it is looking at how a host
star’s light passes through the atmosphere at the very the edge of an exoplanet. Scientists have been detecting atmospheres
around giant, gassy exoplanets for about a decade, but it took until last year for them
to find an atmosphere around what’s called a super-Earth. Super-Earths are exoplanets more massive than
Earth and less massive than a planet like Uranus or Neptune. And the first one where we found an atmosphere
is called 55 Cancri e. But even though it’s a super-Earth, 55 Cancri
e isn’t very Earth-like. It’s 8 times more massive, with 18-hour
years and surface temperatures of around 2,000 degrees Celsius. So astronomers have been looking for atmospheres
around planets that might be more like Earth. And this team got a step closer. GJ 1132 b is about 39 light years away. It’s a super-Earth, but it’s only about
40% bigger and 60% more massive than Earth, so it’s closer to Earth’s size than Mars
is. According to the team’s measurements, it’s
probably made of similar rocks as Earth, too. And the researchers think there’s a good
chance that its atmosphere has lots of water vapor. But they’ll have to collect more data to
be sure, since water vapor and methane can look really similar in these kinds of studies. Now, even if there is a lot of water vapor
in the atmosphere, there aren’t any warm little ponds for life to swim around in. Because GJ 1132 b is a toasty 320 degrees
Celsius. That doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t have
life, but there probably isn’t any like here on Earth. At the very least, GJ 1132 b is proof that
Earth and Venus aren’t the only small, rocky worlds with thick atmospheres out there. And, who knows, it’s probably only a matter
of time until we find a long-lost twin. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
Space News, and thanks especially to our patrons on Patreon who help make this show possible. If you want to help us keep making episodes
like this, you can go to And don’t forget to go to
and subscribe!


  1. Amos Bordowitz Author

    Please tone down the over-editing. It's so hard to watch your videos. For example – pauses between sentences – they actually help. You eliminate them so brutally that it's hard to keep up. Plus – all the zooming in and out with the camera for no apparent reason. This does nothing but confuse the eye.
    It's a shame because really good pop-sci videos aren't easy to come by.

  2. Jonathan Tse Author

    Let me say this.It is better if we dont "Observe" the blackholes since I have heard that scientists said that observing matters will change the matter(I forgot if its state or something)(But since blackhole is something that "eats" matter then its not a matter.)

  3. blindandwatching Author

    Get Hubble, Cassini, and New Horizons to observe an object only a few light years away at the same time. Could the data be tied together somehow to form a single image?

  4. Michael Appleseed Author

    Opening remarks were, "The problem with observing black holes is that they are dark." Dude. Do you realize what you just said? Facial expression said it all.. Fascinated that black holes are dark.

    Fucking really dude?

  5. blacksheep837 Author

    shocking to find out that with all the millions of pictures out there of galaxies and black holes that none of them are real and we never once got a picture of any of them

  6. Melvon D'costa Author

    what if you don't need to build a giant planet sized telescope….
    what if there is a completely glass planet out there somewhere which acts like a huge telescope….

  7. Otter Sauce Author

    The thing that may slow us down from finding another intelligent beings is that we look for life only in the way we know it.

    I may be exaggerating but in a far away planet animals might breath pure liquid gold and eat glass idfk, they also may be invisible to human eye consedering black matter and all we don't know about it.

  8. streetsk8n Author

    "Something wrong with our current theory of gravity" a hint of truth at 2:00. Modern day bedford level experiments (often using P900s) confirm this statement and uncover many more long hidden truths.

  9. martialme84 Author

    Intro sound effect is WAAAAAAYYYYYYYY TOOOO LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Make it MAYBE as loud as the guy´s talking. Preferably a lot less!

  10. UKR69 Author

    No hot ponds for things to grow/live? are you dumb? have you see the creatures that live at the bottom of the oceans on the hot vents? they survive….cold or 320 degrees…things will live…period.

  11. CaptainJJz Author

    Why do we think all life has to have water? There could be life out there that doesn't even eat or drink, and Can live in extremely high temperatures

  12. Michael Hartman Author

    Super Earth at 60% more mass and 40% larger would have a density 58.1% of Earth (3.21 g/cu cm), and 81.6% surface gravity. Assuming I did my math correctly.

  13. TheCaptainLulz Author

    K, Im going to preach here but GET BOINC (Berkely Open Infrastructure for Network Computing)!!!!! It parses out tasks like number crunching of data to YOUR computer and uses unused clock cycles to crunch data for projects like this. It only runs when nothing else is going on, so you can leave your computer on overnight and do science. WIN!

  14. Ben Helmet Author

    Ok, everyone must learn some optical physics. These telescopes are all collecting light and with a large spacing they collect more light than just one. So spacing them around the world is like having one large one.

  15. Canuck Fundy Author

    I'm late to the party, but maybe someone could answer this. Could water remain in a liquid state at higher temps, in higher pressures, such as in a higher gravity environment?

  16. Mark Garin Author

    Wow…a black whole is so dark it doesn't emit light….damn no wonder we can't see it…..aught to call it, ah I don't know…a 'black hole'.


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