While black holes can’t emit their own light, matter surrounding and falling toward it can create quite a light show. Here you’ll find a collection of data visualizations, illustrations, and telescope images of black hole environments.
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This image shows the warped view of a larger supermassive black hole (red) when it passes almost directly behind a companion black hole (blue) with half its mass. The gravity of the foreground black hole transforms its partner into a surreal collection of arcs.
A black hole pulls material off a neighboring star and into an accretion disk in this illustration of a black hole named MAXI J1820+070. Above the disk is a region of superhot subatomic particles called the corona.
The central region of our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains an exotic collection of objects, including a supermassive black hole weighing about 4 million times the mass of the Sun, clouds of gas at temperatures of millions of degrees, neutron stars and white dwarf stars tearing material from companion stars, and beautiful tendrils of radio emission. This new composite image shows Chandra data (green and blue) combined with radio data (red) from the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa.
Spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy Hercules A as imaged by Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 and the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico.
This visualization of a black hole illustrates how its gravity distorts our view, warping its surroundings as if seen in a carnival mirror. The visualization simulates the appearance of a black hole where infalling matter has collected into a thin, hot structure called an accretion disk. The black hole’s extreme gravity skews light emitted by different regions of the disk, producing the misshapen appearance.
Supercomputer Simulation Frame of a Star Distorted by a Black Hole
This frame is from a simulation of a star weighing 15 percent of our Sun's mass passing close to a black hole that weighs about 1 million Suns. The black hole’s gravity stretches and deforms the star. These simulations show that destruction and survival depend on the stars’ initial densities. Yellow represents the greatest densities, blue the least dense.
Two neutron stars begin to merge in this artist’s concept, blasting jets of high-speed particles and producing a cloud of debris. Scientists think these kinds of events are factories for a significant portion of the universe’s heavy elements, including gold.
This is an artist's concept of a runaway supermassive black hole that was ejected from its host galaxy as a result of a tussle between it and two other black holes. As the black hole plows through intergalactic space it compresses tenuous gas in front of it. This precipitates the birth of hot blue stars. This illustration is based on Hubble Space Telescope observations of a 200,000-light-year-long trail of stars behind an escaping black hole.
Dust Rings Illuminated by the Blast From the Birth of a Black Hole
The most common gamma-ray bursts signal the birth of black holes that form when the cores of massive stars collapse under their own weight. A few bursts have even enabled astronomers to probe distant dust clouds in our own galaxy. This image shows 19 of 20 dust rings detected by XMM-Newton from a gamma-ray burst first detected on October 9, 2022.
This image features a galaxy called 3C 297 that is lonelier than expected after it likely pulled in and absorbed its former companion galaxies. The solo galaxy is located about 9.2 billion light-years from Earth and contains a quasar, a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy that pulls in gas and drives powerful jets of matter seen in radio waves.