- ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images
- Stephen Hawking would have been “blown away” by the first picture of a black hole, his daughter told Business Insider.
- Lucy Hawking said her father was aware of the Event Horizon Telescope’s project before his death last year and hoped it would be successful.
- Scientists published the photograph of a black hole on Wednesday.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
Stephen Hawking would have been “blown away” by the first close-up image of a black hole, which was published Wednesday, his daughter told Business Insider.
Lucy Hawking on Thursday said she would have loved for her father, the world-renowned specialist in black holes who died last year, to have been able to see the picture.
“As the absolute leader in theoretical discoveries about black holes, we think our father would have been blown away by this first image and we all feel desperately sad he is not here to see it,” she said on behalf of herself and her two brothers, Robert and Timothy.
- Event Horizon Telescope
The Event Horizon Telescope collaboration published the groundbreaking image of a black hole’s shadow after more than a decade of work by scientists from 40 countries. Eight observatories created a “virtual” telescope to capture the details of the supermassive black hole.
Lucy Hawking said her father would have been aware of the project, as it was underway since 2006.
“He very much hoped the project would be successful, as it would mean a leap forward in terms of our understanding of black holes,” she said.
“And it would have been incredible for Dad to see an image of the mysterious and fascinating object of a black hole which dominated his scientific career and his thoughts.”
Stephen Hawking contributed revolutionary theories to the study of black holes. One of his best-known assertions was that black holes were in fact not “entirely” black, but emitted small parts of radiation over time. According to “Hawking radiation,” black holes actually shrink as they radiate away their energy.
“Black holes ain’t as black as they are painted,” he once said.
EHT did not confirm or contradict this theory, but no one expected the image to do so at this stage, the astrophysicist Erin Bonning told Live Science.
Wednesday’s picture showed a black hole in the center of the “supergiant” Messier 87 galaxy. Scientists said the image showed a structure that was about the size of our solar system. The black hole’s shadow was about 25 billion miles long – more than three times as far as Pluto’s orbit.
Heino Falcke, an astrophysicist at Radboud University Nijmegen who is an EHT collaborator, said during a live press briefing that scientists were looking at a region they could not even imagine being there.
“It feels like looking at the gates of Hell, at the end of space and time: the event horizon, the point of no return,” Falcke said. “That is awe-inspiring to me, at least, but it’s also important to physics.”