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New funding for groundbreaking collaboration to continue investigating some of the biggest questions in physics and cosmology

On April 10, 2019 researchers from the Event Horizon Telescope, a global scientific project headquartered at Harvard University’s Black Hole Initiative (BHI), released the first-ever image of a black hole, from the center of Messier 87 (M87), a massive galaxy in the Virgo star cluster. News outlets around the world featured picture, a fuzzy orange ring of light bending around a black circle — the black hole’s event horizon inside of which matter, light, and information cannot escape. The announcement came as a culmination of the first phase of the BHI, which was established in 2016 and entirely funded by the John Templeton Foundation. This fall the Foundation has renewed its support for the BHI by way of a 50:50 co-funding partnership with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Jointly, the two foundations will provide $7.2 million to fund the BHI through Autumn of 2022, ensuring three more years of groundbreaking work.

The new funding will allow this key node in the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration to build on recent success by capturing and processing new and enhanced images of black holes, perhaps even including time-lapse imaging (think: movies!) of these extraordinary objects. Such a development would be another major advance for the BHI’s physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and philosophers who are working together to understand what happens to matter, energy, and information in the extreme conditions surrounding black-hole singularities. The project will also allow for the completion of a feature-length documentary about the scientific collaboration that resulted in the first black hole image — providing an opportunity to leverage the public’s fascination with black holes to help people explore how scientists grapple with and gain insight into some of the universe’s biggest unknowns.

The BHI’s key researchers are a purposefully interdisciplinary team. They include BHI director and Harvard astronomy department chair Abraham Loeb, along with principal investigators Ramesh Narayan (a broad-spectrum astrophysicist), Sheperd Doeleman (the director of the Event Horizon Telescope project), theoretical physicist Andrew Strominger, mathematician Shing-Tung Yao, and philosopher and historian of science Peter Gallison. They are joined in their work by dozens of external collaborators, visiting researchers, postdocs, and graduate students.  

“The Black Hole Initiative is full of current and future leaders in black-hole research,” says Matthew Walhout, the John Templeton Foundation’s Vice President for Natural Sciences. “Along with the Moore foundation, we are thrilled to be able to support these pioneers as they continue to put fundamental concepts to the test, stretch scientific creativity, and spark popular interest in the profound questions raised by black holes.”



Watch a beautiful video about the Black Hole Initiative featuring Abraham (Avi) Loeb. 

Learn more about the Black Hole Initiative.