Heino Falcke, the Helmut Newton of black holes


PORTRAIT – This German astrophysicist amazed the whole world, and Europe in particular, by presenting, exactly three years ago, the first image of a black hole. He recounts this epic in a book.

He will remember it all his life. When darkness fell in the press room of the European Commission, in Brussels, on April 10, 2019. He was going to reveal to the European public the first photograph of a black hole. A scoop obtained thanks to the participation of a global network of observatories. The image showed an orange ring floating in the cosmic night. A proof for the general public that the calculations of scholars can sometimes take a visible form.

“Until now, we had theorized it, and even drawn it, but we didn’t see it. Suddenly he popped up, and he was perfectly in line with the simulations, as unremarkable as can be, but alive and kicking.” summarizes Falcke. Sky photographers are like paparazzi. The latter hunt down ephemeral models, these shooting stars of the tabloid press; astronomers do the same thing, with a patience that is measured in years and not in days: they hunt with their immense telephoto lenses interstellar events that…

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