When two orbiting supermassive black holes get close to each other, the results can be pretty twisted. A new NASA visualization shows how the irresistible pull of extreme gravity bends and distorts light in the glowing rings of hot gas circling the black holes in a simulated binary system.
The animation shows two black holes: The bigger of the pair, which is about 200 million times the mass of our sun, is surrounded by red rings of hot gas called an accretion disk. Orbiting that giant is a second black hole weighing in at about half of that mass, and its gas and dust rings are illustrated in bright blue.
Powerful gravitational forces tug and warp the fabric of space-time as one black hole orbits the other, bending the light from the dance partners’ glowing accretion disks. And the closer you get to one of these warped giants in the simulation, the more contorted the other appears, NASA representatives said in a statement.