Tour: M87 in Different Wavelengths of Light

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In April 2019, scientists released the first image of a black hole in the galaxy M87 using the Event Horizon Telescope, or EHT.

Now data from 19 observatories — and both on the ground and in space — are being released that promise to give unparalleled insight into this supermassive black hole and the system it powers. These new observations could also help improve tests of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

The immense gravitational pull of a supermassive black hole can power jets of particles that travel at almost the speed of light across vast distances. M87's jets produce light spanning the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to visible light to gamma rays. This pattern is different for each black hole. Identifying this pattern gives crucial insight into a black hole's properties, but this is a challenge because the pattern changes with time.

Scientists compensated for this variability by coordinating observations with many of the world's most powerful telescopes, collecting light from across the spectrum. This is the largest simultaneous observing campaign ever undertaken on a supermassive black hole with jets.

NASA used several of its space-based telescopes in this observing campaign including the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, the NuSTAR satellite, and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Beginning with the EHT's now iconic image of M87, a new video takes viewers on a journey through the data from each telescope. The video shows data across many factors of ten in scale, both of wavelengths of light and physical size. Each telescope delivers different information about the behavior and impact of the black hole at the center of M87, which is located about 55 million light-years from Earth.

The data were collected by a team of 760 scientists and engineers from nearly 200 institutions, and 32 countries or regions, using observatories funded by agencies and institutions around the globe. The observations were concentrated from the end of March to the middle of April 2017.

The combination of data from these telescopes, and current -- and future -- EH-- and and and observations, will allow scientists to conduct important lines of investigation into some of astrophysics' most significant and challenging fields of study.
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