Exploring Supermassive Black Holes: NASA’s Animated Guide

2023-05-07 12:45:00

03:45 PM

Sunday 07 May 2023

NASA has released an animated video that simply explains the size of black holes.

Supermassive black holes are at the center of all large galaxies, including our own Milky Way. These cosmic bodies weigh between 100,000 and tens of billions of times the mass of our Sun.

A black hole is a region of space where the force of gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape. These astronomical objects can be formed due to dying stars. The largest black holes in the universe are called supermassive (or supermassive) black holes.

More than 100 supermassive black holes have been confirmed. And in 2019, astronomers took the first image of giant black holes at the center of M87 and the Milky Way. They revealed a bright ring of hot gas orbiting a circular region of darkness.

A new animation released by NASA shows 10 supermassive black holes lurking at the center of their host galaxies, measured by the sizes of their shadows. The clip also contains a black hole in the Milky Way.

Starting with the sun, the images in the video are steadily zoomed out to compare the sizes of black holes to different objects in the solar system.

The black hole in the Milky Way is called Sagittarius A*, and it weighs 4.3 million suns. The diameter of its shadow extends about half the diameter of Mercury’s orbit in our solar system.

In the video, as well as Sagittarius A*, a dwarf galaxy dubbed J1601 + 3113, which hosts a black hole with a mass of 100,000 suns, is shown.

The clip shows two monstrous black holes in the galaxy known as NGC 7727, located about 1,600 light-years away. One of the two black holes weighs about 6 million solar masses, and the other weighs more than 150 million suns.

Astronomers expect the two black holes to merge within the next 250 million years.

The video ends with TON 618, which is among the most distant and massive black holes that astronomers have direct measurements of.

NASA said: “This giant contains more than 60 billion solar masses, and boasts shadows so large that a ray of light could take weeks to traverse it.”

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