This photograph is the first image of a black hole that has ever been captured. The black hole, considering its historical implication in the field of astrophysics, is also the first one to receive a profound name.
Larry Kimura – a language professor at the University of Hawaii – named it “Pōwehi,” which, loosely translates to an adorned dark origin of infinite creation. When selecting the name, Kimura worked with two astronomers based at the Hawaiian observatories who taking part in the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project.
The photographed black hole is located at the center of a galaxy called Messier 87(M87). The scientific name for the object is M87 black hole or M87* with the asterisk denoting that the object is at the galaxy’s center. Other names for black holes such as NGC 4486 and 3C 274 hardly capture the imagination of the public.
Morgan Hollis, the Royal Astronomical Society spokesperson, says that names for any celestial objects have to be accepted by the International Astronomical Union. However, these factors only apply to common space objects such as asteroids, planets, and stars but not black holes due to insufficient information available regarding these objects.
Charles Messier was one of the pioneer astronomers who applied the number system when naming the stars. This system cataloged up to 110 objects in deep space. The Messier galaxy is number 87 on the list.
As technology continues to advance and scientists develop more precise methods for identifying celestial objects such as black holes, the naming system will likely involve terms which will even inspire the general public. Thus, Pōwehi can be considered as a trailblazer to the reformed approach of naming black holes.