Scientists have captured the first image of a black hole, and the size and scope of it alone will blow your mind.

Scientists have captured the first image of a black hole, and the size and scope of it alone will blow your mind.

It's a hugely historic day for us puny little humans. For the first time ever, astronomers have definitive, visual proof that black holes are actually a real thing in the universe.

A team of 200 scientists captured the image over the course of 10 days, using eight linked telescopes positioned around the globe. Professor Sheperd Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, one of the scientists who led the telescope project, has called it "an extraordinary scientific feat."


First image of a black hole seen from Earth. Handout/Getty Images.

"We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago," Doeleman told the BBC. Yay, humans.

The numbers are mind-boggling. This black hole is located in a galaxy 500 quadrillion km away from Earth. The black hole itself is 40 million miles across—larger than our entire solar system—and has a mass 6.5 billion times the mass of our sun.

"It is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists," Professor Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands told the BBC. "It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe."

Seeing something so incredibly massive highlights how unbelievably minuscule we humans are in the universe.

Let's try to get a hold of some of these numbers. First of all, 500 quadrillion km (that's 500,000,000,000,000,000, if you want to actually see the crapload of zeroes) is an incomprehensible distance. Even if we could travel at the speed of light—which we can't even come close to—it would take us 50 million years to get there. The fact that we've invented telescopes that can actually see anything that far away is freaking amazing, but it's also a reminder that we are mere flecks upon a speck floating about here in space.

Our planet feels so big to us here on the ground. As an individual, I am one out of approximately 7,000,000,000 humans on Earth. On my feet, I take up about one square foot of the surface area of the Earth, the total of which is 196.9 million square miles. That alone is enough to make me feel pretty small.

But when I think about how a million Earths could fit inside our sun, and the mass of this black hole I'm looking at is 6.5 billion times that?  

Nope. Too big. I just can't.

We could let these numbers spiral us into an existential crisis, or we can use them to gain some much needed perspective.

Trying to ponder the physical expanse of the known universe is enough to make anyone's head explode. And when we add our own individual, physical puniness on top of it? Well, that's a quick and easy way to plunge ourselves into despair over our own insignificance, isn't it?

But one cool thing about being human is that we can choose how we view things. And laying our eyes on a black hole that's 50 million light years away and larger than our solar system offers us an opportunity for some physical and philosophical perspective.

How do our lives appear from that far away? Is that spat with our neighbor or coworker or in-law really that big a deal in the large scheme of things? What does the grudge we're holding onto look like from space? How many things do we blow into huge proportions in our lives that just aren't that important when we get some distance from them? What if we let all of that go?

I know I'm getting all deep-and-feely here, but that's what happens when you start pondering the immensity of space and time and our place in it. An image like this can remind us how tiny our "one wild and precious life" really is. Each of us has one unique shot at our earthly existence, so it only makes sense to focus on what really matters.

Yes, we are small and insignificant compared to the vastness of space. But we are here, and we might as well make the most of our fleeting time, in our teeny tiny spot in the universe, while we have the chance.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

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Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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