Latest Issue

The black hole picture is an astonishing achievement, and one of the most deceptive scientific images ever

The simplistic portrait masks a mind-bendingly complex reality  

By Philip Ball  

The black hole in the new picture sits at the centre of the galaxy M87, which is 55m light years away. Photo: Jin Liwang/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

The groundbreaking picture of a black hole that graced most newspaper front pages on 11th April must be one of the most deceptive scientific images ever. That’s not to impute any intentional deceit to the international team of 200 or so astronomers who created it—it’s just that nature conspires here to produce something that looks archetypally, almost simplistically black-holeish, but which in reality is a mind-bendingly complex sight.


Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect