NASA’s new animation showcases the dynamics between the black holes closest to Earth and the stars that follow. The video brings together 22 binary systems located in the Milky Way and the adjacent galaxy, the Great Magellanic Cloud, which are detected by X-rays.
In video, binary systems consist of a star orbiting a black hole. In each pair of animations, the black hole is shown as a black dot in the center of the disc of the accretion – it is formed by the star material pulled by its gravity.
Every star with a mass 20 times the mass of the Sun turns into a black hole at the end of its life. Because these objects do not reflect light, astronomers strive to interact with an astronomical partner to detect them.
The best way to observe this dynamic is to use X-rays. In a binary system, a black orifice feeds stellar material in two ways: gas from a star can flow directly into the black orifice, or stellar solar winds push the material into it. When a substance is “consumed”, a huge amount of energy is released in the form of X-rays.
Astronomers have not yet reached a consensus on how the great system at the heart of animation, GRS 1915, works. The accretion disk of this system, which is made up of material left in the orbit of a black hole, extends 80 million kilometers – more than the distance from Mercury to the Sun.
As the material in the plate heats up when it falls into the black hole, it glows in visible light, ultraviolet radiation, and then X-rays. The colors of the stars in the video range from blue-white to reddish, indicating temperatures 5 times hotter or even 45% colder, respectively.
In the video, the motion of the orbit of binary systems has been accelerated almost 22,000 times and the viewing angles are the same as when viewed from Earth. Black holes are presented on a scale that reflects their mass, making them appear larger than they actually are.
For example, Cygnus X-1, the first reinforced black aperture system, is 21 times the mass of the Sun, but its surface (event horizon) is only 124 km.