2019 Video: In-Depth Reporting - Silver

The Windfall Films documentary followed the Event Horizon Telescope team as they captured the first-ever image of a black hole. The video spans two years, telling the inside story of the final moments of a decade-long project as it occurred in real time. The project combined eight radio telescopes from around world, including the South Pole, to make a synchronized, planet-wide telescope capable of observing radio emissions associated with black holes. Based on theory and observations, the existence of black holes — from which no light can escape — has long been accepted by scientists. But the Event Horizon Telescope was designed to definitively prove their existence and provide convincing visual evidence. The research team, led by Shep Doeleman of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, needed powerful supercomputers, specialized software and extremely accurate clocks for accommodating time differences among the various telescopes. There were no guarantees of success. “It’s rare these days to see a film whose ending is not known, whose journey is uncertain,” American University’s Larry Engel said. “We witness the ups and downs, successes and failures of science as the cameras are rolling during the short window of opportunity. It’s a refreshing and authentic view of scientists and their passion.” Director Henry Fraser said it was clear that the first image of a black hole “would be a global sensation.” He said it was “especially important to do the science justice as well as showcase the remarkable human endeavor these scientists achieved.”