A pair of orbital black holes millions of times the mass of the Sun perform a hypnotic pas de deux in a new NASA visualization. The film follows how black holes distort and redirect the light emitted by a vortex of hot gas – called an accretion disk – that surrounds each of them.
Seen close to the orbital plane, each accretion disk acquires a distinctive double hump appearance. But as one passes in front of the other, the gravity of the black hole in the foreground turns your partner into a rapidly changing sequence of arcs. These distortions play out as the light from the two disks navigates into the tangled fabric of space and time near black holes.
“We see two supermassive black holes, 200 million solar masses larger and a smaller satellite weighing half as much,” said Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbult, Maryland, who created the visualization. “These are the types of binary black hole systems where we believe both members can support accretion disks for millions of years.”
Accreditation discs come in a variety of colors, red and blue, to make it easier to track light sources, but the choice also reflects reality. The hotter gas emits light closer to the blue end of the spectrum, and the material that orbits smaller black holes experiences stronger gravitational effects that produce higher temperatures. For these masses, both accretion disks would actually emit most of their light under ultraviolet light, with the blue disk reaching a slightly higher temperature.
Visualizations like this help scientists imagine the fascinating effects of the house’s mirror on extreme gravity. The new video doubles as an earlier one, produced by Schnittman, showing a lone black hole from different angles.
Viewed almost at the edges, the accretion discs look noticeably brighter on one side. Gravitational distortion changes the paths of light coming from different parts of the disks, creating a distorted image. The rapid movement of gas near the black hole changes the brightness of the disk through a phenomenon called Doppler amplification – an effect of Einstein’s theory of relativity that illuminates the side facing the viewer and obscures the side rotating.
The visualization also shows a finer phenomenon called relativistic aberration. Black holes appear smaller as they approach the viewer, and larger as they move away.
These effects disappear when viewed from above, but new features appear. Both black holes create small images of their partners orbiting each orbit. A closer look reveals that these images are actually views from the edge. To produce them, the light from the black holes must be redirected by 90 degrees, which means that we observe the black holes from two different perspectives – facing and edge at the same time.
“A striking aspect of this new visualization is the self-similar nature of the images obtained by gravitational objectification,” Schnittmann explained. “Scaling each black hole reveals multiple, increasingly distorted images of your partner.”
Schnittmann creates the visualization by calculating the path taken by the light rays from the accretion disks as they make their way through the distorted space-time around the black holes. On a modern desktop computer, the calculations required to create film footage would take about a decade. So Schnittman teamed up with Goddard scientist Brian P. Powell to use the Discover supercomputer at NASA’s Climate Simulation Center. Using only 2% of Discover’s 129,000 processors, these calculations took about a day.
Astronomers expect that in the not-too-distant future, they will be able to detect gravitational waves — waves in space-time — produced when two supermassive black holes in a system similar to the one Schnittman depicts merge and merge.
The astrophysicist suggests that light may be a problem for life on a planet orbiting a black hole
Provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Quote: New preview NASA explores the light-bending dance of binary black holes (2021, April 15), retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-nasa-visualization-probes-light-bending- binary .html
This document is subject to copyright. Except for any fair transaction for the purpose of private investigation or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.