Recent developments have ushered in a new era in the field of black-hole astrophysics, providing a direct view of the remarkable environment near black-hole event horizons. These observations have enabled astronomers to confirm long-standing ideas on the physics of gas flowing into black holes with temperatures that are hundreds of times greater than at the centre of the Sun. At the same time, the observations have conclusively shown that light rays near a black hole experience large deflections that cause a dark shadow in the centre of the image, an effect predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. With further investment, this field is poised to deliver decades of advances in our understanding of gravity and black holes through stringent tests of general relativity, as well as insights into the role of black holes as the central engines powering a wide range of astronomical phenomena.
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