High frame-rate movie of an accreting black hole at a level of detail never seen before

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An international team of astronomers, including academics from the University of Sheffield, have used state-of-the-art cameras to create a high frame-rate movie of an accreting black hole at a level of detail never seen before. To read the full story, click here.

This video shows an artist’s impression of the black hole system MAXI J1820+070, based upon observed characteristics during a rapid accretion episode in March 2018. Purple denotes X-ray radiation seen by the NICER instrument on the ISS, and the rest of the colours show visible light seen by HiPERCAM in La Palma.

The video is shown at roughly 1/10th of the true speed. The black hole is seen to feed off the companion star, drawing the material out into a vast disc of inspiralling matter. As it falls closer to the black hole itself, some of that material is shot out into energetic pencil-beam ‘jets’ above and below the disc. The light here is intense enough to outshine the Sun a hundred times over can be seen to be crackling and shimmering from thousands of lightyears away.

The actual X-ray and visible light time-series data captured appears in graphs about halfway through. X-rays likely emerge from very close to the black hole, while the visible light comes from the inner parts of the jet, after a fraction-of-a-second delay. The system is about 10,000 lightyears distant – too far away to resolve all the structure illustrated; but by looking at the different colours of the spectrum and how they relate to one another, we are able to ‘peer in’ and infer the structures of these enigmatic systems.

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Helen has worked for UKi Media & Events for more than a decade. She joined the company as assistant editor on Passenger Terminal World and has since progressed to become editor of five publications, covering everything from aviation, logistics and automotive to meteorology. She has a love for travel and property and has redeveloped three houses in three years. When she’s not editing magazines, she’s running around after her two boys and their partner in crime, Pete the pug.

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