First Black Hole Captured By Scientists Gets Its Own Hawaiian Name

The Event Horizon Telescope captures a black hole at the center of galaxy M87
National Science Foundation / Getty Images

The first black hole to ever be depicted in an image has been given its own name by a language professor in Hawaii.

The landmark scientific experiment resulted in the first-ever image of this kind of cosmic object to be produced, which was named “Powehi” by Hawaiian professor Larry Kimura at the University of Hawaii-Hilo. According to The Guardian, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported on Thursday that Professor Kimura chose that specific name because it means “the adorned fathomless dark creation” or “embellished dark source of unending creation,” and it originates from the 18th-century Hawaiian creation chant Kumulipo. “Po” is a deep dark source of unending creation, and “wehi” means honored with embellishments, while also being one of the chant’s descriptions of “po.”

“To have the privilege of giving a Hawaiian name to the very first scientific confirmation of a black hole is very meaningful to me and my Hawaiian lineage that comes from po,” Professor Kimura said in a statement.

The first-ever image of a black hole was produced on Wednesday and created by using data from eight different radio telescopes around the globe, including two located in Hawaii, which is why astronomers agreed on the project’s name. A whole team of 200 scientists put together a group effort to capture the image of the huge black hole located in the M87 galaxy, which is about 54 million light-years from Earth.

“As soon as he said it, I nearly fell off my chair,” said Jessica Dempsey, who’s the deputy director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and part of the team.

“We described what we had seen and that this black hole was illuminating and brightening the darkness around it, and that’s when he came up with the name,” Dempsey said, explaining that Professor Kimura managed to find the perfect match for the scientific explanation he was given.


At the forefront of the historic discovery is a 29-year-old Ph.D. student who came up with the algorithm that eventually led to the revolutionary image released on Wednesday. Katie Bouman was a post-grad student in computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when she came up with the algorithm three years ago, per The Guardian.

Alongside the black hole image, a picture of Bouman triumphantly smiling as the incredible photo showed up on her computer screen went viral, with the young scientist receiving praise from all across the world. The data used to put together the image of Powehi was captured by a network of eight radio telescopes titled the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). Bouman’s main role when she joined the team six years ago was to help construct an algorithm that could piece together the masses of data collected into one single image.