Looking at an Asteroid and Seeing a Black Hole


This animation simulates an X-ray outburst from a black hole MAXI J0637-043 that was detected by the REXIS instrument aboard the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, as the black hole moved through REXIS’s line of sight. The outburst is initially intense, but it gradually fades. The animation was constructed using data collected by the X-ray spectrometer while observations were being made of the space around asteroid Bennu on 11 November, 2019.
Image Credits: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / MIT / Harvard

A Black Hole on Edge


When viewed almost on edge, the disk of gas spinning around a black hole takes on a odd double-humped appearance. The black hole’s extreme gravity deflects the paths of light coming from different parts of the disk, producing the warped image. What the observer sees depends on his viewing angle. The greatest distortion occurs when viewing the system nearly edgewise.
Animation Credit: NASA / Jeremy Schnittman

A Microquasar


This is SS 433, a microquasar located about 18,000 light-years away in the constellation Aquila. This image at submillimeter wavelengths is special because it shows the jets emitted by a hot, swirling disc of material around the black hole at SS 433’s center. The jets’ corkscrew shapes are created by a phenomenon known as precession. The two jets are slowly wobbling about their spin axes in the same manner as a spinning top as it slows down. The corkscrew is enormous—5000 times the size of the Solar System.

Image Credit: ESO

Magnetism and a Black Hole


The dusty streamlines in this image highlight the magnetic fields around the Milky Way’s massive black hole. The Y-shaped structure is warm material falling toward the black hole, which is located near the intersection of the the two arms of the Y. The streamlines reveal that the magnetic field closely follows the shape of the dusty structure surrounding the black hole. Each of the blue arms has its own field that is distinct from the rest of the ring which is shown in pink. The dust and magnetic fields are from data taken by SOFIA and have been overlaid on a visible light image from Hubble.
Image Credit: NASA