An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Video: How the Event Horizon Telescope Captured the Image of a Black Hole

  • Julie Fox
  • Slice of MIT

“I can totally confirm that black holes are all about love,” jokes Shep Doeleman PhD ’95, SAO astronomer in the Harvard Department of Astronomy, in a recent MIT Alumni Association Faculty Forum Online webinar (in response to a question about the 2014 movie Interstellar’s representation of black holes).

Doeleman is director of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)—a synchronized global array of radio observatories designed to examine the nature of black holes. The project, whose team includes some 200 people from 60 institutions across 20 countries and regions, made headlines in April 2019 by capturing the first-ever image of a black hole, and won the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

“The premise of this visionary project,” Doeleman explains in the video above, “was to see if we could take a picture of a black hole to see what they really look like—to test Einstein’s theories close to the event horizon itself, the one place we know in the universe that his laws may break down.” And more than that, he added, to understand “how black holes might energize the centers of galaxies.”

In his talk, Doeleman provides in-depth explanations of black hole images and simulations, and answers audience questions posed during the live webinar, including why we don’t put telescopes on the moon and why gravity wave propagation is limited to the speed of light. Learn more by watching the full talk.

The talk was moderated by Dan Falk, 2012–2013 MIT Knight Science Journalism fellow.

Watch more archived Faculty Forum Online webinars, and register for upcoming MIT Alumni Association virtual programming.

Picture (top): Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.