Earlier this year, astronomers revealed the first real-life picture of a black hole. A few months ago, NASA also shared computer simulations that further detail how “a black hole warps spacetime like a funhouse mirror – and how that affects the appearance of its glowing accretion disk of infalling material.”As reported by ScienceNews.org, the black hole located in the M87 galaxy’s first photo was an incredible albeit blurry and still image. These new computer simulations show so much more detail, including how the black hole’s “superstrong gravity bends light emanating from gas in the disk behind the black hole so that the disk’s far side seems to split into arcs above and below the abyss.”

Source: Jeremy Schnittman/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

ScienceNews compares the simulation’s results to a more of a “time-lapse of nighttime city traffic than a continuous band of material, thanks to magnetic fields threaded throughout the disk.”

“As the gas swirls around, it tangles the magnetic fields [and] you get these knots,” explains NASA’s Jeremy Schnittman, who created these new black hole images.

These aforementioned knots heat surrounding gas and create bright spots. Since gas is closer to the black hole orbits faster, these hot spots were stretched out “into bright smears as gas circles the cosmic drain.”Schnittman also explains that gas on the left side of the disk is brighter than that on the right because “the light waves emitted by quickly approaching gas pile up on their way to the viewer, whereas waves from receding gas get spread out.”

Near the pit of the black hole, a “photon ring” appears and “particles of light in this ring are snared by the black hole’s gravity such that they circle all the way around at least once before escaping.” Inside the photon ring is the black hole’s event horizon, “beyond which nothing – not even light – can escape.”

These simulations are only the beginning of the study of this and future black holes. Researchers will hope to study not just how it appears in a single moment, but how it could change over time. Also, astronomers hope to “gather enough observations to make movies that unveil ‘what the weather is like around a black hole.'”For more on black holes, check out another that is pulling space and time into itself, and relive Fortnite’s season 11 event that saw a black hole destroying the original map.

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Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on Twitch.





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