We haven’t ever observed a black hole, but we know what happens when two rip into each other.
Black holes are incredibly difficult to model, especially when you’re modeling more than one at a time. But a new study has just created this simulation of what two black holes might look like as they pass nearby one another. There are only two black holes in the video below, but because of the way light warps around them, it looks like cosmic chaos.
Collisions follow classical physics. When objects come into contact and exert some force on each other, they tend to do it the same way every time, everywhere in the universe. This means a researcher can extract, say, what two black holes will look like colliding from an understanding of how classical physics works. But things get really messy when you’re modeling objects that distort the universe itself.
Thought of to be remnants of collapsed stars, black holes have such a strong gravitational pull that nothing crossing their dreaded event horizon can escape them, not even light. Then even warp spacetime, sending ripples through the fabric of the universe.
When two black holes pass one another, they’re moving at speeds close to the speed of light, warping space-time in their wake. Light around them would bend like the universe was is a funhouse mirror. But historically, when scientists have tried to model this effect, the equations didn’t work out.
Models have gotten better over time, leading to this simulation of two black holes impacting. Set over an image of the Milky Way so the starlight lets us see the distortions, Matthew Duez — a researcher with the Simulating Extreme Spacetimes project — and his colleagues tracked each ray of light to produce sequential images of black holes merging. The circular clusters of twisting and spinning light are an effect known as “Einstein Rings,” the effect of black holes on spacetime.
Space is awesome. And it only gets cooler when we visualize something we’d never see.
IMAGE: Andy Bohn, François Hébert, William Throwe, Darius Bunandar, Katherine Henriksson, Mark A. Scheel, and Nicholas W. Taylor