Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2019 August 20
Explanation: What would it look like to orbit a black hole? Many black holes are surrounded by swirling pools of gas known as accretion disks. These disks can be extremely hot, and much of the orbiting gas will eventually fall through the black hole's event horizon -- where it will never be seen again. The featured animation is an artist's rendering of the curious disk spiraling around the supermassive black hole at the center of spiral galaxy NGC 3147. Gas at the inner edge of this disk is so close to the black hole that it moves unusually fast -- at 10 percent of the speed of light. Gas this fast shows relativistic beaming, making the side of the disk heading toward us appear significantly brighter than the side moving away. The animation is based on images of NGC 3147 made recently with the Hubble Space Telescope.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.