The Doubly Warped World of Binary Black Holes / New NASA Visualization Probes the Light-bending Dance of Binary Black Holes

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Apr 18, 2021, 4:04:45 AM4/18/21

»A pair of orbiting black holes millions of times the Sun’s mass perform
a hypnotic dance in this NASA visualization. The movie traces how the
black holes distort and redirect light emanating from the maelstrom of
hot gas – called an accretion disk – that surrounds each one.

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Viewed from near the orbital plane, each accretion disk takes on a
characteristic warped look. But as one passes in front of the other, the
gravity of the foreground black hole transforms its partner into a
rapidly changing sequence of arcs. These distortions play out as light
from the accretion disks navigates the tangled fabric of space and time
near the black holes.

The simulated binary contains two supermassive black holes, a larger one
with 200 million solar masses and a smaller companion weighing half as
much. Astronomers think this kind of black hole system is one in which
both members could maintain a long-lived accretion disk.

The disks have different colors, red and blue, to make it easier to
track the light sources, but the choice also reflects reality. Gas
orbiting lower-mass black holes experiences stronger effects that
produce higher temperatures. For these masses, both accretion disks
would actually emit most of their light in the UV, with the blue disk
reaching a slightly higher temperature.

Visualizations like this help scientists picture the fascinating
consequences of extreme gravity’s funhouse mirror.

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New NASA Visualization Probes the Light-bending Dance of Binary Black Holes

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