NASA’s New Black Hole Simulation Will Completely Melt Your Brain

A new black hole simulation by NASA researchers manifests how a black hole distorts its appearance by angling the matter around it and bending light itself with its massive gravity.

The first-ever direct image of the event horizon of a black hole released in April this year was a truly an impressive feat of scientific ingenuity and persistence. The extremely difficult to achieve image was also relatively low-resolution. Scientists are already working on developing an even crisper, higher resolution shot by using two or three satellites.

Now, a new NASA visualization was created for the agency’s Black Hole Week. The stunning imagery is a depiction of high-resolution images of an actively accreting supermassive black hole that will possibly be available in the future.

Supermassive black holes often appear at the center of large galaxies, condensing a huge amount of matter into a tiny space. The resulting gravitational field is so strong that it eats up everything, including light. Over the last few decades, their strange dynamics has been understood to some extent. The very first simulated image of a black hole was calculated using a 1960s punch card IBM 7040 computer and plotted by hand by French astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Luminet in 1978. Amazingly, it still looks a lot like NASA’s simulation.

In the new visualization, the yellow highlights of the black hole are twisting magnetic fields as they’re making their way through churning gas. According to a NASA statement, the inside gas nearest to the hole itself orbits the hole at almost the speed of light. It appears to have separate rings projecting out of the bottom because the intense gravitational forces bends the light emitted by the disk, thus provides a view of the disk’s underside.

Luminet wrote in a paper last year, “It is precisely this strong asymmetry of apparent luminosity, that is the main signature of a black hole, the only celestial object able to give the internal regions of an accretion disk a speed of rotation close to the speed of light and to induce a very strong Doppler effect.”

Simulations like these can help us understand the extreme physics driving supermassive black holes and that helps us understand the picture of M87*, the distant blackhole that was snapped by the Event Horizon team.

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