AMU Careers & Learning Editor's Pick Original Space

Take a First Look at NASA's Black Hole Simulator

By Wes O’Donnell
Managing Editor, In Space News

Recently on InSpaceNews, we highlighted the unprecedented work of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) in bringing us the first-ever “photograph” of a black hole’s event horizon.

According to Cosmos, the website of Swinburne University of Technology, an “event horizon” is the boundary defining the region of space around a black hole from which nothing (not even light) can escape. In other words, the escape velocity for an object within the event horizon would have to exceed the speed of light.

Now, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is making news with a stunning visualization of a black hole created by Jeremy Schnittman using custom software. Before, such simulations were confined to artists’ renderings or movie visual effects. But today, we can now see the invisible:

Seen nearly edgewise, the turbulent disk of gas churning around a black hole takes on a crazy double-humped appearance. The black hole’s extreme gravity alters the paths of light coming from different parts of the disk, producing the warped image. The black hole’s extreme gravitational field redirects and distorts light coming from different parts of the disk, but exactly what we see depends on our viewing angle. The greatest distortion occurs when viewing the system nearly edgewise.

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

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

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Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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