NASA imaging gathers the most famous black hole systems

(ORDO NEWS) — Nearby black holes and their stellar companions form a gallery of astrophysical patterns in this new NASA visualization.

Stars born with more than 20 times the mass of the sun end up as black holes. As the name suggests, black holes don’t glow on their own because nothing can escape them, not even light. Until 2015, when astronomers first detected merging black holes through space-time ripples called gravitational waves.

The main way to discover these mysteries was to look for them in binary systems, where they interacted with companion stars. And the best way to do that is to look in x-rays.

This visualization shows 22 X-ray binaries in our Milky Way galaxy and its nearest neighbor, the Large Magellanic Cloud, which contain confirmed stellar-mass black holes. The systems are presented on the same physical scale, which demonstrates their diversity, and the viewing angles repeat the way we see them from Earth.

When paired with a star, a black hole can collect matter in two ways. In many cases, the flow of gas can flow directly from the star to the black hole.

In others, such as the first confirmed black hole system, Cygnus X-1, the star produces a dense stream called stellar wind, some of which is collected by the black hole’s strong gravity. It is not yet clear what mode is used in the GRS 1915, the large system in the imaging center.

As the gas approaches the black hole, it enters orbit and forms a wide, flattened structure called an accretion disk.

The accretion disk of GRS 1915 may extend over 80 million kilometers, more than the distance separating Mercury from the Sun. The gas in the disk heats up as it slowly spirals inward and glows in visible, ultraviolet, and finally X-ray light.

Stars range in color from blue-white to reddish, which means temperatures range from five times hotter to 45% colder than our Sun. As accretion disks reach even higher temperatures, a different color scheme is used for them.

Although black holes are shown to scale to reflect their mass, they are all much larger than they actually are. The black hole Cygnus X-1 weighs about 21 times the Sun, but its surface, called the event horizon, extends only 124 kilometers. The huge spheres also hide visible distortions that could be caused by the gravitational influence of black holes.

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