Black hole breakthrough: sensational image captured through international cooperation

First image of a black hole

First image of a black hole, © Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) / Quelle dpa

11.04.2019 - Article

The first image of a black hole not only confirms their existence but also proves the advantages of international scientific cooperation. The project involved researchers from around the globe, including a number of Germans.

Successful international scientific cooperation

For the first time ever, researchers have managed to photograph a black hole and its shadow. The simultaneous unveiling of the image at six locations worldwide last week has already resulted in considerable media interest. One hundred years after Einstein’s general theory of relativity it was time, many thought, for a scientific breakthrough.

What has been achieved is more than delivering overdue direct visual evidence of a famous phenomenon. The image is above all a testament to successful international scientific cooperation. It was only by virtue of the Event Horizon Telescope, a project uniting an intercontinental network of eight observatories in North and South America, Europe and Antarctica, that it was possible to generate the image of the black hole, or more precisely its event horizon, 55 million light years away at the heart of the galaxy Messier 87. 

The discovery in 2012 of the Higgs boson and the detection of gravitational waves in 2016 already underscored how important international research consortia have become for work on major scientific projects. Both discoveries have since been awarded the Nobel Prize. 

German researchers on board

German researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, the Goethe University in Frankfurt and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Garching were involved in the project. 

The Federal Foreign Office supports international cooperation in science and research in numerous ways. Scholarships, international university partnerships and double degree programmes enable ever closer exchange between students and researchers from different countries. The Federal Foreign Office works closely with intermediary organisations to implement such programmes. 

Additional content

Academic mobility and scientific cooperation are playing an increasingly important role – also with a view to achieving an effective German foreign policy. Germany’s science diplomacy is helping to shape this cooperation and is working around the world to defend the freedom of science and Research.

Science diplomacy


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