We’re nearing the end of Black Hole Week, NASA’s celebration of the beastly cosmic monsters that suck in light, matter, and anything else that gets too close to them. But just because they eat light doesn’t mean black holes are impossible to imagine. As part of the festivities, the media department at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center shared a selection of some of the best visualizations of black holes so you can get an idea of what these mind-blowing phenomena look like.
Also available as desktop and mobile wallpapers, if you’d like to decorate your devices with images of a black hole, the images show simulations and visualizations created to try to imagine the strange effects of extreme gravity around would be a black hole. They include a simulation of a binary system made up of two interacting black holes:
A visualization of a similar binary black hole:
An illustration of the disk of matter swirling around a black hole called the accretion disk, which will eventually be sucked into the black hole once it crosses the event horizon, as well as an incredibly hot region called the corona that makes X-rays flow into space :
A composite image of our galaxy’s bustling center, where objects dance around the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way:
And a Hubble visible light image showing the huge energy beams given off by the supermassive black hole in a galaxy called Hercules A:
For a long time it was thought that black holes were impossible to image because of their light-consuming properties. But the Event Horizon Telescope project made history in 2019 when they captured the first-ever image of a black hole. They were able to use radio telescopes from all over the world to collect signals together from the very edge of an event horizon, the boundary around the black hole from which nothing can escape. They imaged an absolutely massive black hole at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, 55 million light-years away.
Now the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team is gearing up for another big announcement. This week, May 12, the EHT team will present “groundbreaking” results related to a finding in the Milky Way, according to the European Southern Observatory. So keep an eye out for the black hole news this week, as there could be a photo of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, called Sagittarius A*, on the way.