Black holes are the undisputed titans of the cosmos. These collapsed stars are so dense and massive that not even light can escape their gravitational clutches, rendering them invisible. Fear not: we can now “see the unseeable”, according to the astronomers who, on Wednesday, unveiled the first photograph of a black hole and its surroundings. It does, admittedly, look like a doughnut: a circle of blackness ringed by fuzzy, bright light. The image of the super-massive black hole, which is 6-billion times bigger than our sun and lies 53-million light years away in the Messier 87 galaxy, was captured in fragments by a global network of high-altitude, land-based telescopes, then pieced together. While the confirmation burnishes Albert Einstein’s legacy — it vindicates his general theory of relativity, even though he did not believe such objects existed — it should also inspire admiration for John Michell, an 18th-century English rector who theorised the existence of “dark stars” before ...

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