The heart of every major galaxy is thought to contain a supermassive black hole — a place where gravity is so strong that anything, including light, gets devoured.

Like all black holes, supermassive ones form when stars collapse in on themselves at the end of their life cycles. On average, they’re millions of times more massive than the sun.

For years, scientists have struggled to capture a black hole on camera, since the absence of light renders them nearly impossible to see.

But on April 10, a group of scientists from the international Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration released the first-ever photograph of a supermassive black hole to the public. Though the image was fuzzy, it signified a major milestone for space research.

The accomplishment has now earned the team a 2020 Breakthrough Prize, which was awarded on September 5. The prize was started eight years ago by a team of investors including Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg, and is often referred to as the “Oscars of Science.”

The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHT) team will collectively receive $3 million, but the money will be divided equally among the group’s 347 scientists, giving each person around $8,600.

What the black hole photograph shows

The April image captured a supermassive black hole at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy, which is about 54 million light-years away from Earth. The black hole in the photo likely had a mass equivalent to 6.5 billion suns.

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