French physicist Jean-Pierre Luminet hand-plotted this image of a black hole in 1978, said to be the the first based on data rather than artistic speculation.
1979 - He created the first "image" of a black hole with an accretion disk using nothing but an early computer, lots of math and India ink, predicting that it could apply to the supermassive massive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy M87. In April 2019 the Event Horizon Telescope Consortium provided a spectacular confirmation of Luminet’s predictions by providing the first telescopic image of the shadow of the M87* black hole and of its accretion disk.
He used punchcards on an IBM 7040 mainframe to plot elements often ignored in other depictions until recently: the slender photon ring, gravitaional light shifting, and lensing effects.
Luminet's own history of black hole visualization is your next stop.
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The final black and white “photographic” image was obtained from these patterns. However, lacking at the time of an appropriate drawing software, I had to create it by hand. Using numerical data from the computer, I drew directly on negative Canson paper with black India ink, placing dots more densely where the simulation showed more light – a rather painstaking process! Next, I took the negative of my negative to get the positive, the black points becoming white and the white background becoming black. The result, The result converged into a pleasantly organic, asymmetrical form, as visually engaging as it was scientifically revealing.
Sculptor Art Donovan (previously) writes in about "Event Horizon," his newest lamp, inspired by black holes.
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Illustris TNG is a theoretical astrophysics project that created the most detailed simulation of the universe to date, and it turns out that black holes influence the distribution of dark matter. Read the rest
The always-excellent maker of animated explainer videos, Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell just released a new video that explains what black holes are, explains what information is, and then goes into the way that black holes are the cause of something called "The Information Paradox." The takeaway: we all might be stretched on a flat screen, just imagining that we are in three dimensions. Read the rest
Black holes swoop around one another in a slow, elegant dance, their orbits mo—THWUP! *belching noise*
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EDIT: This post originally went up with the wrong images. Sorry about that.
This is not a photograph.
But it's still amazing.
An important thing to remember about science is that some of the stuff we talk about in the general public as "fact" — like, say, black holes — haven't actually been seen by anybody. Instead, black holes exist on paper, as part of theoretical astrophysics. They also exist in indirect evidence — we can look for things in the universe that should exist in a certain way, in a certain place, if our theoretical astrophysics is correct. So far, that lines up, too.
And then there's this thing. Like I say, it's not a photo. It's more like a model. Telescopes — the kind we point at deep space — don't collect images, they collect information. This is a digital rendering made based on information collected when researchers pointed four different telescopes at a galaxy called (poetically) galaxy M87. What you're looking at is a series of simulations, over time, showing massive ribbons of gas undulating and spinning around the something at the galaxy's center. If the theoretical astrophysics is right, this is the closest we've ever gotten to seeing a black hole. Read the rest