Black holes are arguably one of the most fascinating objects in the universe. Despite their phenomenal powers of attraction that can devour a planet or even an entire star, they are more inconspicuous monsters in that they are invisible.
To recognize them, scientists usually observe their impact on their environment. Sometimes the data from such observations is used to create visualizations. This is what Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, did.
This expert effectively simulated an interaction between two supermassive black holes orbiting each other. So the short video shows how binary black holes float between them. Because of the impressive gravitational forces that prevail in such a system, the effects of interactions are simply spectacular.
As mentioned above, black holes can bend light. The intensity of the latter is even likely to change depending on its direction. But what happens when two such objects have the same orbit?
Black holes that act like gravitational lenses
Schnittman’s simulation answers exactly this question. In fact, this is not the first time this scientist has developed a 3D model of a black hole. To design his new video, he built on his previous work, including a 2019 visualization.
Black holes that act like gravitational lenses. Photo credit: NASA
“We see two supermassive black holes, one with more than 200 million solar masses and a smaller companion that weighs half as much,” he explained, reports Science Alert. In the clip, the black holes act as gravitational lenses. “A striking aspect of this new visualization is the self-similarity of the images produced by the gravitational lens,” added Schnittman.
A visualization with a NASA supercomputer
The animation also shows a Doppler effect. The light in front of the shadow of the black hole is brighter as it moves towards the viewer and weaker as it moves away. Notice that the light comes from the gas accretion disks, which move around the two structures at nearly 300,000 km / s.
But how did Schnittman and his staff manage to create such a spectacular visualization? As a NASA supercomputer, of course! In fact, the team used only about 2% of the processing power of Discover, the space agency’s supercomputer with 129,000 processors! So imagine what the researchers could do if they took advantage of the full power of this computer monster.