We present the first Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) images of M87, using observations from April 2017 at 1.3 mm wavelength. These images show a prominent ring with a diameter of ~40 μas, consistent with the size and shape of the lensed photon orbit encircling the "shadow" of a supermassive black hole. The ring is persistent across four observing nights and shows enhanced brightness in the south. To assess the reliability of these results, we implemented a two-stage imaging procedure. In the first stage, four teams, each blind to the others' work, produced images of M87 using both an established method (CLEAN) and a newer technique (regularized maximum likelihood). This stage allowed us to avoid shared human bias and to assess common features among independent reconstructions. In the second stage, we reconstructed synthetic data from a large survey of imaging parameters and then compared the results with the corresponding ground truth images. This stage allowed us to select parameters objectively to use when reconstructing images of M87. Across all tests in both stages, the ring diameter and asymmetry remained stable, insensitive to the choice of imaging technique. We describe the EHT imaging procedures, the primary image features in M87, and the dependence of these features on imaging assumptions.
We present measurements of the properties of the central radio source in M87 using Event Horizon Telescope data obtained during the 2017 campaign. We develop and fit geometric crescent models (asymmetric rings with interior brightness depressions) using two independent sampling algorithms that consider distinct representations of the visibility data. We show that the crescent family of models is statistically preferred over other comparably complex geometric models that we explore. We calibrate the geometric model parameters using general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic (GRMHD) models of the emission region and estimate physical properties of the source. We further fit images generated from GRMHD models directly to the data. We compare the derived emission region and black hole parameters from these analyses with those recovered from reconstructed images. There is a remarkable consistency among all methods and data sets. We find that >50% of the total flux at arcsecond scales comes from near the horizon, and that the emission is dramatically suppressed interior to this region by a factor >10, providing direct evidence of the predicted shadow of a black hole. Across all methods, we measure a crescent diameter of 42 ± 3 μas and constrain its fractional width to be <0.5. Associating the crescent feature with the emission surrounding the black hole shadow, we infer an angular gravitational radius of GM/Dc2 = 3.8 ± 0.4 μas. Folding in a distance measurement of gives a black hole mass of . This measurement from lensed emission near the event horizon is consistent with the presence of a central Kerr black hole, as predicted by the general theory of relativity.
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has mapped the central compact radio source of the elliptical galaxy M87 at 1.3 mm with unprecedented angular resolution. Here we consider the physical implications of the asymmetric ring seen in the 2017 EHT data. To this end, we construct a large library of models based on general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic (GRMHD) simulations and synthetic images produced by general relativistic ray tracing. We compare the observed visibilities with this library and confirm that the asymmetric ring is consistent with earlier predictions of strong gravitational lensing of synchrotron emission from a hot plasma orbiting near the black hole event horizon. The ring radius and ring asymmetry depend on black hole mass and spin, respectively, and both are therefore expected to be stable when observed in future EHT campaigns. Overall, the observed image is consistent with expectations for the shadow of a spinning Kerr black hole as predicted by general relativity. If the black hole spin and M87's large scale jet are aligned, then the black hole spin vector is pointed away from Earth. Models in our library of non-spinning black holes are inconsistent with the observations as they do not produce sufficiently powerful jets. At the same time, in those models that produce a sufficiently powerful jet, the latter is powered by extraction of black hole spin energy through mechanisms akin to the Blandford-Znajek process. We briefly consider alternatives to a black hole for the central compact object. Analysis of existing EHT polarization data and data taken simultaneously at other wavelengths will soon enable new tests of the GRMHD models, as will future EHT campaigns at 230 and 345 GHz.