Meet Powehi, the first black hole ever witnessed

The first image of a black hole, taken with the help of two Hawaii telescopes, was released today.

The supermassive black hole located in the center of Messier 87 galaxy was named Powehi, meaning embellished dark source of unending creation.

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Astronomers consulted with Larry Kimura, of the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language, who sourced the name from the Kumulipo, a primordial chant describing the creation of the universe.

“It is awesome that we, as Hawaiians today, are able to connect to an identity from long ago, as chanted in the 2,102 lines of the Kumulipo, and bring forward this precious inheritance for our lives today,” Kimura said in a press release.

The two Hawaii telescopes involved in the discovery — James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and Submillimeter Array — are part of the Event Horizon Telescope project, a network of radio observatories around the world.

“Maunakea makes this discovery and the spectacular image of Powehi possible,” said Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of JCMT, operated by the East Asian Observatory. “Its perfect remote position, and the dry conditions on Maunakea’s summit, allow JCMT and SMA to collect the tiny amount of light that only touches our planet in a few very special places. Like the mountain itself, every drop of light we gather is precious.”

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What they found in the groundbreaking discovery is a ring-like structure surrounding the dark center of the black hole itself. It is the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow.

Gov. David Ige issued a proclamation declaring April 10 “Powehi Day.”

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