To many people, black holes evoke a mysterious darkness threatening to swallow you up. To scientists, they have sometimes seemed like the mystery that might swallow physics. They awkwardly bridge the theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity, exposing deep weaknesses in our understanding of nature. But recent theoretical and observational advances have helped illuminate these shadowy objects, with profound implications for more than just black holes themselves.

George Musser describes how physicists have made breakthroughs toward resolving a decades-old quandary called the black hole information paradox. One of the physicists involved in this work, Ahmed Almheiri, explains the mind-bending solution. Another physicist, Edgar Shaghoulian, discusses how these insights may even help scientists better understand the cosmos as a whole. And Seth Fletcher writes about the Event Horizon Telescope, which has captured the first image of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Black holes are starting to look a little less dark and enigmatic.