Dive into a black hole with these immersive NASA videos

Published by Adrien - Monday, May 13, 2024 - Other Languages: FR, DE, ES, PT
Source: NASA

Thanks to a NASA supercomputer, an immersive visualization allows us to explore what happens as we approach a black hole.


Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, created these visualizations to simulate two scenarios: in the first, the camera skirts the event horizon and is ejected, while in the second, it crosses the boundary and seals its fate.

Schnittman suggests choosing a supermassive black hole. Unlike stellar black holes, which have smaller event horizons and stronger tidal forces that can tear objects apart before they even reach the horizon, a supermassive black hole stretches approaching objects less intensely.

Alternative visualization with a camera approaching, briefly orbiting, and escaping the supermassive black hole.
This immersive 360-degree version allows viewing from all perspectives.
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/J. Schnittman and B. Powell

As the camera approaches the black hole, reaching speeds close to that of light, the brightness of the accretion disk and the stars in the background intensifies. The images become increasingly distorted, even forming multiple images as their light passes through the increasingly warped space-time.

In real time, it would take about 3 hours for the camera to reach the event horizon. However, for a distant observer, the image of the camera would appear to slow down and then freeze just before the horizon, due to the distortion of space-time.

This visualization of a journey toward a supermassive black hole demonstrates the strange effects of Einstein's general relativity. The camera approaches, briefly orbits, then crosses the event horizon, the point of no return for a gigantic black hole similar to the one at the center of our galaxy.
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/J. Schnittman and B. Powell

Upon crossing the event horizon, space-time itself flows inward at the speed of light. Beyond this point, everything is pulled towards the center of the black hole, a point called the singularity, where physical laws as we know them cease to apply.
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