Photo: Courtesy: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

Hawaii Telescopes Helped Capture the First Image of a Black Hole—and It Has a Hawaiian Name

Scientists worked with a UH Hilo professor to name the newly discovered black hole Powehi, a name sourced from the Kumulipo, the Hawaiian creation chant.

Folks, you’re looking at history in the making.

This photo, captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), consisting of eight radio telescope observatories around the world working together, is the first ever image we’ve seen of an actual black hole—or rather, the silhouette of the black hole against the bright material surrounding it.

Two Hawaii telescopes contributed to this incredible discovery: the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and Submillimeter Array, both located at Mauna Kea Observatory on the Big Island. The other telescope locations include a volcano in Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, the Chilean Atacama Desert, and Antarctica.

Another exciting detail: The black hole has been given a Hawaiian name.

Scientists collaborated with renowned University of Hawaii at Hilo professor and cultural practitioner Larry Kimura to name it “Powehi,” meaning “embellished dark source of unending creation.” The name is sourced from the Kumulipo, the Hawaiian creation chant.  

“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.

Although it's is estimated to be about 6.5 billion times the mass of our Sun, you can rest easy though—this supermassive black hole, located at the center of Messier 87, a galaxy in the nearby Virgo cluster, is 55 million light-years from Earth.