What two supermassive black holes look like when moving around each other
While it is extremely difficult to capture the shadow of a black hole and the space around it directly, it is by no means the only tool that astronomers have in their kit.
Based on years of observation and analysis, there is a tradition of black hole visualization that spans decades; This method was first used by the French astronomer Jean-Pierre Lumin in the 1970s.
Surprisingly, the simulations came very close to what we saw two years ago when a huge international group took the first, direct photo in the history of the supermassive black hole M87 *. Consequently, we already know that our predictions are traditionally very accurate.
Due to the strong gravitational fields, there is real chaos. Light bends and changes its intensity, depending on where it moves. So I wonder what happens when not one but two black holes are stuck in a common orbit, each with its own gravity and its own acre disk of gas and dust around it?
That’s one of the latest visuals created by NASA.
Based on his own, previous simulation of the black hole and its accretion disk, NASA astronomer Jeremy Schnittman of the Goddard Space Flight Center put two black holes together in a new simulation to see what might have happened.
“We are facing two supermassive black holes, one of which has a mass of 200 million solar masses, and its small companion has half that. They are black holes of a kind of binary system (dual), in which we think both members have to maintain accretion discs for millions of years, ”Schnittmann explains.
The simulation starts as if you were looking at two supermassive black holes moving from top to bottom. In the center of each is a shadow of a black hole surrounded by a wide accretion plate.
Between the inner edge of each of these accretion discs and the shadow of the black hole is a thin ring called the photon sphere, where gravity is so strong that the photons are trapped in a stable orbit around the black hole. When these photons get too close to the black hole, they will fall inside the event horizon, where we can no longer see them.
During the simulation, the viewer’s perspective shifts downward, to the orbital plane of two black holes.
First of all, the simulation is very similar to many other such simulations that you may have seen; The disc light bends backwards to form a halo, the light in front of the black hole shadow becomes brighter as it moves in the viewer direction, and fades as it moves backwards. This is called relativistic radiation, and it is this that causes the Doppler effect, which allows the image of waves (in this case light waves) to change depending on where they are going.
After that a really strange thing happens.
Schnittmann used two different colors to represent two black holes to make them easier to distinguish when gravitational fields bend and bend, causing the light to move in a complex curved path; He calculated all this with a powerful supercomputer. As a result of the influence of its own binary companion, the light of each black hole is further curved.
The view then shifts from top to bottom, approaching the point where one of the black hole’s photons moves around the sphere to see the side of its companion. This is because the light is bent by 90 degrees, which means we are simultaneously taking top-down and distorted side views of each black hole.
An amazing aspect of this new visualization is the unique nature of the images created by gravitational lensing. “Approaching the view of each black hole shows more and more distorted images of his partner,” Schnittman explains.
Gravitational lensing is a useful tool for viewing deeper regions of space, as it enhances views of distant objects and often even duplicates them. Gravitational lenses can also be galaxies and galaxy clusters; However, the lensed objects do not look as distorted and strange as the images generated by the two active supermassive black holes.
Direct shooting of a black hole requires a lot of work, binary supermassive black holes are rare and therefore it is unlikely that we will see a real analogue of Schnittman visualization in the near future. However, such simulations can help us to study the extreme physics around supermassive black holes, which in turn helps us to better analyze the observations.
Prepared according to nasa.gov and ScienceAlert.