NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has released a fascinating new visualisation of a black hole. Earlier this year, the first ever (albeit notably blurry) image of a black hole was released, located at the centre of Messier 87, documented with the help of the Event Horizon Telescope. When Sheperd Doeleman, the director of EHT, was asked his first thoughts on seeing the image of the M87 black hole, he said “We saw something so true.”
In a statement from NASA, the new visual simulates the appearance of a black hole where incoming matter gets condensed into a thin, hot structure (an accretion disk). The direction of light is distorted by the extreme gravitational force of the blackhole, creating the misshapen appearance we see.
Jeremy Schnittman, credited with the new visual, says “Simulations and movies like these really help us visualise what Einstein meant when he said that gravity warps the fabric of space and time. ”
Closer to the black hole, the gravitational light bending becomes so excessive that the underside of the disk appears as a bright ring outlining the blackhole. “Until very recently, these visualisations were limited to our imagination and computer programs. I never thought that it would be possible to see a real black hole,” said Schnittman. The image below, also released by NASA, explains the visual: