First ever image of a black hole is released

Since the dawn of mankind, people have looked up at the stars and wondered what's out there. Now, we're one step closer to finding out.

For the first time ever, scientists have managed to take a picture of a black hole - and it's incredible.

The image was finally attained this week from two years of computer analysis of data from the Event Horizon Telescope, which uses a network of radio antennas to observe the universe.

The black hole measures a mind-blowing 40 billion km across (that's three million times the size of planet Earth!) and has a mass that's 6.5 billions times that of the sun. Perhaps understandably, scientists have described the phenomenon as "a monster".

"What we see is larger than the size of our entire Solar System," explained Professor Heino Falcke from Radboud University in the Netherlands.

"It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists. It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe."

The picture shows a "ring of fire", as Falcke calls it, which is the event horizon around the singularity. The light is caused by superheated gas being pulled into the hole, which some scientists theorise has infinite density.

According to the research team, the light is actually brighter than that of all the billions of other stars in the galaxy combined. It's this intensity that allows us to see the black hole from so far away on Earth.

The project director, Sheperd Doeleman, commended the efforts of his team, saying: "We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago."

The unveiling took place almost exactly a century after Einstein managed to confirm his theory of general relativity, which paved the way for the proposal of the existence of black holes.