But thanks to the theoretical predictions made by Einstein’s theories in 1915, the properties of a black hole make it possible to see what lurks behind it.
Dr Wilkins said: “The reason we can see that is because that black hole is warping space, bending light and twisting magnetic fields around itself.”
The discovery marks the very first time scientists have made a direct observation of light from behind a black hole – more than a century after Einstein predicted it was possible.
According to Einstein, gravity as we know it is not a force, but rather a warping of space and time (spacetime) caused by objects with mass.
In other words, light travelling from behind a black hole can appear on the other side by travelling along the warped magnetic fields and spacetime.
So what better way to observe the warping of spacetime than in the presence of a black hole – one of the heaviest objects in the known universe?
Roger Blandford, professor of particle physics and study co-author, said: “Fifty years ago, when astrophysicists starting speculating about how the magnetic field might behave close to a black hole, they had no idea that one day we might have the techniques to observe this directly and see Einstein’s general theory of relativity in action.”