Opening speech of the ranking member Frank Lucas Full Committee Hearing on the event horizon Telescope image of a black hole

press release
From: House Committee on Science, Space and Technology
Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2019

"We have this first image of a black hole thanks to a pioneering collaboration between observatories around the world," said Lucas. This is a great example of how the NSF's approach to basic science drives scientific progress. "

The full statement of Lucas follows:

Thank you, Chairman Johnson, for holding this hearing. Thanks to all our witnesses who came to discuss this incredible discovery.

After Einstein predicted the existence of black holes, scientists were able to observe their effects and refine theories about how they affect our universe.

However, it is the first time we have seen a black hole directly and it marks a major milestone in our understanding of the universe.

We have this first image of a black hole thanks to a pioneering collaboration between observatories around the world. To see a picture of a black hole, we needed a telescope the size of our entire planet. Not surprisingly, that was out of the question.

But every challenge offers a chance.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the scientist has partnered with astronomers and data scientists around the world to coordinate their observations to create a global telescope.

This is an excellent example of how the NSF's approach to basic science drives scientific progress.

Like Dr. Córdova said just last week before this committee, the 10 great ideas of the NSF are about enabling research that crosses scientific disciplines to make great discoveries.

NSF's coordinated and interdisciplinary approach has already yielded two groundbreaking discoveries in its "Window to the Universe" – first the discovery of gravitational waves by LIGO and now this image of a black hole.

I would like to put these successes in the right perspective. When Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, he also asked whether these waves in space-time could ever be observed on Earth.

The signals would be so small that he doubted that we would ever be able to develop instruments that were sensitive enough to recognize them.

One hundred years later, NSF-funded technology, developed over decades, allowed us to confirm this fundamental prediction.

This is important not only because it helps us to understand the universe we live in, but also because it has helped to develop other technologies that directly affect scientific advances – including semiconductors, our cell phones and computers make it more efficient.

NSF's investments in ground-based astronomy have also resulted in technologies ranging from airport security to Lasik eye surgery.

But the scientists who have produced these projects may be the biggest return on our investment. Hundreds of graduate students have been working on this discovery, and their careers are being made aware of this experience. And thousands of young students who have seen this announcement may be inspired to make a career in STEM. These are whole generations of new discoverers who will contribute to scientific knowledge and American progress.

We do not yet know all the ways in which the Horizon Telescope event will expand our knowledge of the universe or our technological evolution here on earth. However, it is certain that this picture is only the beginning of what is to come.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses – what this discovery teaches about our universe, what lessons we can learn to better coordinate basic science in the US, and what's next planned for this project.

Thank you for being here and I'll give you the rest of my time.

// The End //

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