Villanova University scientist helps create cosmic postcard of black hole

Joey Neilsen says black holes seem ominous, but are a friend to the galaxy with a really rich ecosystem.
VILLANOVA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A Villanova University scientist is part of a global team that produced the first-ever image of a black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Action News had the chance to chat with scientist Joey Neilsen, Ph.D., an assistant professor of physics at Villanova University, about his decade-long search for Sagittarius A* (A Star), the supermassive black hole in the Milky Way.

He says it's four million times the mass of the Sun and about 27,000 light years away from Earth. So finally capturing these images was huge.

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"It all clicks in that moment," Neilsen said. "You've been trying to get to know this black hole for so many years, and then all of a sudden, there it is right in front of you. It's heartwarming. It's exciting. These are hard observations to do. A lot of people have been waiting a long time for this."

Capturing the images took a global collaboration from Event Horizon Telescope.

They networked telescopes all around the world, and stitched them together to create one gigantic telescope.

Part of the process was proudly at Villanova University.

"If you look carefully at the author list of those papers, you'll see one of my undergraduate students, Caleb Kwon," Neilsen said. "He was involved in some of this work."

Kwon graduates from Villanova tomorrow and will head to Dartmouth University for graduate school.

Neilsen says black holes seem ominous, but are a friend to the galaxy with a really rich ecosystem.

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