Last week, for the first time ever, we saw a picture of a black hole. In this primer of the experience, the New York Times described a black hole as a region in space that “swallows up everything too close, too slow or too small to fight its gravitational pull.” The edge of a black hole is marked by a ring of light, called the event horizon, represents light about to be drawn into the black hole “never to escape.” Hence its nickname “the point of no return.”
The science and technological feat of taking this picture was nothing short of astounding. For starters the black hole in question is 55 million light years away. (And you thought your iPhone had a good zoom lens.)
It started with Einstein’s theory of relativity over a hundred years ago that first introduced the idea of black holes. But more recently, it took a team of “more than one hundred scientists on four continents and one very important crystal used to calibrate atomic clocks. In April 2017 scientists staked out eight telescopes atop mountain on four continents, synchronized them, pointed them to the sky and waited.”
On the same day this photograph was released I watched this documentary about another hole – the one in our ozone layer. Similarly there were teams of hundreds of scientists, advocates, and politicians who marshaled the technology, science and will to not only photograph the hole but identify both its root cause and solution. The result was avoiding a climate catastrophe. For example, if left unaddressed, today anyone outside would be severely sunburned in a less than two minutes.
Culturally, there is a strong gravitational pull that sucks us into black holes of our own making. They steal our energy and rob us of our valuable time.
Name any issue and you will hear more people talking about the problem than see pictures of those working on the solution.
Yet, as the teams behind photographing the black hole and fixing the one in our ozone layer prove, these people are the light. They keep us out of the darkness.
The more we capture and share their stories, the brighter our future will be.