Kaler Science Talk: The Black Hole in the Heart of M87
/ Categories: General, Natural Sciences

Kaler Science Talk: The Black Hole in the Heart of M87

UI astronomer will discuss steps leading up to the now famed M87 image 

On April 10, astronomers around the globe hailed the first image of a black hole in the heart of the galaxy Messier 87, using Event Horizon Telescope observations. This extraordinary scientific feat was accomplished by a team of more than 200 researchers, one of whom will discuss this discovery at Parkland College next month.

Dr. Charles Forbes Gammie, professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Illinois, will speak about black holes and the steps leading up to this M87 image during the final Kaler Science lecture of the spring semester. His talk will be Friday, May 3 at 7 p.m. at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium. Admission is $2 at the door with "Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium" admitted free of charge. 

Messier 87 is an elliptical galaxy in Virgo roughly 55 million light years away. It is one of the most massive galaxies in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster. Radio waves were found emanating from the galaxy in 1947, and a rocket launched in 1966 found the galaxy to be an X-ray source. Soon after, M87 was suspected to harbor a large black hole. The EHT image is the first direct image of the center of the galaxy.  

Gammie was the leader of the theoretical working group for the Event Horizon Telescope Project. He was assisted by graduate students Ben Prather and Charles Wong and former graduate student Ben R. Ryan. His team generated an extensive library of sophisticated 3D computer models that could be compared with EHT observational data, a massive computational undertaking. Gammie is a theoretical and computational astrophysicist who has worked on black hole formation and star formation. He has developed numerical methods for modeling relativistic plasmas and radiative processes in very hot plasmas. He has been at the University of Illinois since 1999, serving as the chair of the Astronomy Department from 2011 to 2014. 

Following Gammie's talk, the planetarium will present the fulldome show "Two Small Pieces of Glass: The Amazing Telescope" and then "Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon." Tickets for regular planetarium programs range from $5 to $6, all sold at the door. For a full schedule of events, call the show hotline at 217/351-2446 or visit

[Image from the EHT Collaboration at]

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