Preston astronomer reveals how he helped take first-ever picture of a black hole

Posted on - 17th May, 2019 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Preston News, UCLan, University campus
UCLan's Professor Derek Ward-Thomson with the audience
UCLan’s Professor Derek Ward-Thomson with the audience

A Preston-based astronomer has revealed what it took to capture the historic first-ever picture of a black hole.


Professor Derek Ward-Thomson shared the techniques during the annual Jeremiah Horrocks Lecture at UCLan, which this year was titled ‘How to take a picture of a black hole’.

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One of the eight telescopes used to capture the image was the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, which is part-owned by UCLan. Professor Ward-Thompson worked with the multi-national imaging team to produce the ground-breaking picture.

Read more: Preston astronomer plays part in capturing first ever pictures of a black hole

The audience of budding astronomers at the lecture learned how the eight telescopes were connected together to forge the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT).


The EHT, which is the equivalent of one single earth-sized telescope, is so powerful that it can view objects only a few centimetres across on the surface of the Moon.

Professor Ward-Thompson said: “It was fantastic to play a role in this truly historical achievement. The black hole we imaged is 55 million light years away and the size of our entire solar system.

Never before seen first images of the black hole
Never before seen first images of the black hole

“Until now, this was the domain of science fiction and artist impressions but our achievement certainly seemed to capture the public’s attention through widespread international media coverage.

“Our Preston audience was interested to know about our future plans to take new images of another black hole which is located in our Galaxy.

“As we refine our photographic techniques, the resulting images will reveal even more about these extraordinary cosmic objects. We will, of course, be delighted to share our findings with the Lancashire public in future public lectures.”


Read more: UCLan’s new vice chancellor has been announced – and he’s a familiar face

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