Do you like holes? This perfectly unnerving image of two black holes merging in the accretion disk of another black hole is by Robert Hurt of NASA's Infrared Processing and Analysis Center. It illustrates a paper about energy flaring from merging singularities deep in space. (summarized by aps.org and Scientific American).
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On 21 May 2019, gravitational-wave detectors from the LIGO/Virgo collaboration picked up a possible signal from the merger of two black holes. That candidate event—which has yet to be confirmed—may be connected with a brightening, or flaring, of a distant quasar, according to an astronomical team. Based on this association, the team claims that the black hole merger occurred within the gaseous disk around the quasar. The researchers predict that the merged object—presumed to be a black hole having a record-breaking mass of roughly 150 times that of the Sun—will plunge back into the disk in a year or so, creating a second flare. ...
The team’s model explains this brightening as a merger of two black holes within the quasar accretion disk. According to the model, the resulting black hole shot out of the collision at high speed, creating a shock front that heated the gas along its path. The flare was delayed by several weeks relative to the gravitational-wave signal because the light was slowed by scattering in the opaque disk. At some point, the fast-moving black hole escaped the disk, which would explain why the flare ended after about 40 days.
The researchers predict that the black hole will orbit around the quasar’s central supermassive black hole and come crashing back into the disk approximately 1.6
NASA published this animation showing a little black hole (150m solar masses) whirling around a large black hole (18bn solar masses), punching through its accretion disc like an energetic puppy doing donuts through a bead curtain.
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Two massive black holes are locked in a dance at the center of the OJ 287 galaxy. The larger black hole is surrounded by disk of gas; it is also orbited by a smaller black hole that collides with the disk, producing a flare brighter than 1 trillion stars. But because the system's complex physics affects the smaller black hole's orbit, the flares occur irregularly. Scientists used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to detect one of these bright flashes on July 31, 2019, confirming that they can now anticipate the timing of these flares to within four hours using a detailed model of the system.
Gimlet Media's Every Little Thing podcast is based on a pretty simple concept: you call a hotline and leave a message with a question that's been bugging you. If it's intriguing enough, they make a podcast about the answer.
When a guy named Kyle left a meandering voicemail about the nature of spacetime as it relates to black holes, the show's hosts couldn't resist. His giggley, midwest-by-way-of-California-surfer-dude tone seemed like the perfect stoned-at-3-am-philosophical-question fit for their episode scheduled for April 20. Host Flora Lichtman came prepared with all the clever stoner puns she could muster in her repertoire as they got down and dirty about getting high in outer space.
Except it turns out that Kyle is not a raging weed aficionado, because Kyle is a Pastor who is already delightfully high on Jesus.
Kyle actually reminds me of two friends of mine who are also pastors. While the descriptions of and information about black holes are informative and interesting, it's Kyle's earnestness and awkwardness that really carries it through, even as Lichtman bulldozes over him with bong joke after bong joke. Clifford Johnson, professor of physics at the University of Southern California who also advised on some of the Avengers movies, is also a guest on the episode (much to Kyle's excitement).
I listened to the 22-minute episode while I made breakfast and honestly, it was a wonderful way to start the day.
Black Holes: Free Your Mind [Every Little Thing / Gimlet Media]
Image: Assnogholeo / Wikimedia Commons (CC 4.0) Read the rest
A massively powerful eruption has been detected in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, located about 390 million light years from Earth. It is the biggest such event ever observed.
In some ways, this blast is similar to how the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 ripped off the top of the mountain,” said Simona Giacintucci of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, and lead author of the study. “A key difference is that you could fit fifteen Milky Way galaxies in a row into the crater this eruption punched into the cluster’s hot gas.
Astronomers made this discovery using X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton, and radio data from the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Australia and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India.
Read the rest on SciTechDaily.
Image: Credits: X-ray: Chandra: NASA/CXC/NRL/S. Giacintucci, et al., XMM-Newton: ESA/XMM-Newton; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRT; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF Read the rest
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