What are black holes? Where do they lead and are they a threat? Questions such as these have captivated the imaginations of scientists and the public for decades. Up until recently, only simulations and illustrations could help to envisage what black holes might look like – which is why the revelation of the first-ever image of a black hole in April 2019 was a truly historic moment. The result of cutting-edge interdisciplinary work, the picture took the world by storm and has already become an icon, representative of the unimaginable, awe-striking unknowns lurking in space. Sheperd (Shep) Doeleman is an astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the project director of the Event Horizon Telescope that produced this breakthrough. In an example of international collaboration at its best, through shared resources and expertise, Shep and his team of 200 researchers captured the first-ever image of a supermassive black hole by linking radio dishes around the globe into a virtual Earth-sized telescope with the highest angular resolution possible from the surface of our planet. At Falling Walls, Shep will talk about how this image revolutionises our understanding of the universe and heralds a new era of precision, horizon-scale observations of black holes that will help us to untangle some of the universe’s biggest mysteries.

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