Carnes: Copious supply of black holes |

Carnes: Copious supply of black holes

Some people saw a picture last week of an endless void of nothingness surrounded by an orange glow.

But enough about the president.

Others saw a black hole of infinite depth where all enter but none return.

Although federal spending has hit a 10-year high while federal tax revenue has hit a four-year low, enough about our massive federal debt and quickly increasing federal deficit due in part to the aforementioned orange glow.

The rest of us were treated to a picture of an event horizon, one most thought we’d never live to see — Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, being dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London looking like an off-season and oft-fired Santa’s helper that stayed on the Keto diet far too long.

But gosh darnit, enough about that nonsense, too.

Comparable to picking out a lost white ski glove on the surface of the moon, the photo I’m really referring to is of the supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy M87, a mere 55 million light years away.

For the indoctrinated still insisting the earth is only about 6,000 years old, the light in the photograph has been traveling 55 million years before it was picked up by eight linked radio observatories from Spain to Hawaii to the South Pole.

(Note: The universe will be here long after man-made religious practice has been erased from human history.)

Anyway, there are some right here in Happy Valley questioning the need for such a photo, or should I say a need for the world’s top astrophysicists spending millions of tax dollars to acquire a single photograph.

First and foremost, it wasn’t just our American tax dollars being used.

While key funding indeed came from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the European Union’s European Research Council and funding agencies in East Asia, dozens of foundations and scientific research groups around the world participated financially, meaning only a few pennies of the taxes you paid yesterday were used in helping the scientific world make a telescope almost as large as the earth itself.

Einstein’s baby, general relativity (E=MC squared was his mistress), predicts that any object collapsing beyond a certain point would form a black hole, inside which a singularity would appear. In addition to reconfirming Einstein’s predictions, the results from the photo (which took over five years to produce) provided scientists with a much better understanding of gravity, which has a tremendous impact on everything from the future of space travel to the accuracy of the world’s GPS satellite system.

In other words, it plays a defining role every single time you turn on your smartphone, not to mention a little thing like having a better understanding of the formation of our entire universe.

By now, you’re asking why they did not take a look at our very own galaxy’s black hole, Sagittarius A, which is less than half the distance away (if not asking, you should be). Simple, it’s also about 1,000 times smaller than M87.

But have no fear, for after adding a ninth telescope to the mix in Africa next year, scientist hope to turn the camera toward our own black hole and produce a photo with a resolution capable of seeing the dimples on Tiger Wood’s golf ball from Alaska all the way to Augusta.

So although there is a never-ending supply of politically-based black hole metaphors (like the gap between Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s brain and her mouth), nothing beats the real thing.

Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at

Support Local Journalism