Any object with mass action warps space-time, but this only becomes apparent for very dense objects such as stars, galaxy clusters, and black holes. For Black Hole Week last year, NASA released an incredible view of how the ultimate gravity of a black hole distorts and redirects our vision in light from the surrounding recognition disc.
For this year’s Black Hole Week, NASA has improved further and released a startling visualization of how this effect would be manifested if there were supermassive black holes loaded hundreds of millions of times heavier than the Sun. The discovery was the same computer using the discovery supercomputer and shows the actual physics of space-time distortion due to ultimate gravity. The two black holes filled with accretion disks, gas and dust, and an element that surrounds the black hole from which they feed.
In the video, we see black holes orbiting each other from above, to begin with. The accuracy discs are red and blue clearly distinguish between the two when things become weird and our view of their orbits becomes clear. Jeremy Schnittman, creator of the visualization, explained in a statement, “We’re seeing two supermassive black holes, a larger 200 million solar masses and a smaller mate that weighs half as much.”
“These are the kind of black hole binary systems where we think both members can maintain a stability disk for millions of years.” The view from the edge is certainly the most interesting when the black holes are “accepting” each other and the gravity of the larger black hole spreads our vision of light from the smallest as the images spread from one moment to the next. It also shows a subtle phenomenon called relativity, where objects come closer to us and get bigger and farther.
The above opinions also reveal some strange gravitational effects. “An interesting aspect of this new visualization is the self-identifying nature of images created by gravitational lensing,” Schnittman explained. On a regular computer, this visualization took a decade to complete. Using only 2,580 (about 2 percent) of Discover’s 129,000 processors, it only took a day. Creating this visualization is not just about looking around black holes in a funhouse mirror.
Because it is so difficult to create images of a black hole – the light of their nature cannot avoid them – such simulations help us to understand what not known but what known is happening around black holes or to help us visualize the best theories. Astronomers hope that in the very near future they will be able to detect the gravitational waves they produce when the two supermassive black holes in this video orbit each other and eventually merge.