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November 27, 1995
Too Close to a Black Hole
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What would you see if you went right up to a
black hole? Above are two computer generated
pictures highlighting how strange things would look.
On the left is a normal star field containing the constellation
Notice the three stars of nearly equal brightness that
make up Orion's Belt. On the right is the same star field but this time with a black hole superposed
in the center of the frame. The
black hole has such strong gravity
that light is noticeably bent towards it -
causing some very unusual visual distortion.
In the distorted frame, every star in the normal frame
has at least two bright
images - one on each side of the black hole. In fact, near the black hole, you can see the whole sky - light from every
direction is bent around and comes back to you.
Black holes are thought to be the densest state of matter, and
there is indirect evidence for their presence in
stellar binary systems and the centers of
Tomorrow's picture: Shadow at the Lunar South Pole
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