Black holes are a thing of mystery, but at the center of every galaxy, there is one, and sometimes when two galaxies merge, those two black holes begin to enter each other's orbits.
So, what happens when two black holes enter each other's orbits? NASA has released a new animated video on the NASA Goddard YouTube Channel that gives a simple yet beautiful visualization of what begins to happen. The orange black hole is 200 million times the mass of the Sun, and the blue black hole is about 100 million times the mass of the Sun.
As the black holes approach each other on their orbital path, the gravitational pull of the foreground black hole begins to "distort and redirect light emanating from the maelstrom of hot gas - called an accretion disk - that surrounds each one", NASA explains. Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who created the visualization, said, "We're seeing two supermassive black holes, a larger one with 200 million solar masses and a smaller companion weighing half as much".
Schnittman added, "These are the kinds of black hole binary systems where we think both members could maintain accretion disks lasting millions of years."
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