Please do not misunderstand me. I am, indeed, very impressed that scientists have managed to take a picture of the event horizon of a black hole that is 55 million light years away. 55 million. That means that the stuff we just saw a picture of was in that position, in that state, 55 million years ago. The dinosaurs had only been extinct for about 10 million years. Nothing resembling a human being would walk the earth for another 50 million + years. But, that’s how long it took for the light to reach the Earth. In other words, that black hole is very, very far away.
The picture looks like a big, glowing doughnut, as if a celestial doughnut shop had a sign out, a large doughnut shaped sign with a light inside it. That’s because it’s not really a picture of the black hole (which would just look black), but of the stuff in the event horizon. It’s sort of like a photograph of the rings of Saturn, without Saturn.
The photo is impressive, both scientifically and in terms of the intenational co-operation that went into it. Telescopes all around the world, even one in Antarctica, were linked up. This is both impressive, and a good omen for the future. The world’s politicians might be corrupt, self-serving, back-stabbing, inept morons, but the world’s scientists are capable of co-operating and pulling off a thing as big as this.
It makes me wonder, though. All the exoplanets that we have discovered, it’s through analysis of data from radio telescopes, and not actual images. If we can photograph something that’s 55 million light years away, why can’t we focus our telescopes on Proxima Centauri, which is only about 4 light years away (i.e. 54 million, 999 thousand, 996 light years closer to us), and get close up, finely detailed images of the planets which are circling it. I know, they are obscured by the light of their sun, but there are filters for that kind of thing. We might see clouds. We might see oceans. We might see cities.
That’s what I want to see.