360° Video Shows What It’d Be Like to Fall Into a Black Hole

Writer’s note: If you want the full, terrifying experience of falling into a black hole in this 360° video make sure to turn on your sound. 

It’s hard to go a day without hearing about black holes. Perhaps about how the regions of spacetime are key for the “midlife crises” of some galaxies, for example. But while black-hole news is plentiful, understanding the celestial objects intuitively is hard. A new 360° first-person video remedies that, however; offering a truly visceral experience of what it’s like to fall into one of the lightless beasts.

French visual effects artist, programmer, and musician Alessandro Roussel created the above 360° video of what it’s like to fall into a black hole. Roussel made it as a sequel to an explainer (bottom) outlining what somebody would see falling into one. If they had on a magical helmet that would actually allow them to see, that is.

In the video Roussel treats us to a first-person look at what it’s like to fall into a black hole haloed by bright plasma. Using “true” general relativity calculations as the basis for the visualization. The video shows the fall from approximately 15 times the black hole’s radius all the way down to its singularity. I.e. the place where the black hole’s mass compresses matter down to an infinitely tiny point.

A still frame from a 360-degree visualization of what it's like to fall into a black hole.
ScienceClic English

As Roussel notes in an explanation on YouTube, at no point does it look like we’re ever actually entering the black hole. This is intentional, as it represents the phenomenon of light abberation. In other words, we as the observer receive light coming from the plasma around the black hole “squashed toward the front” of our field of view. This is because we’re moving toward the black hole, and peripheral light stretches out in front of us. (An analogy for the effect is when rain falls straight down on a car, but ends up leaving traces at an angle on its side windows.)

As we continue on toward the black hole at about 4% the speed of light, it ultimately only takes up 15% of our field of view; again, a consequence of light abberation. Once we cross the black hole’s point of no return—its “event horizon”—things grow gruesome very quickly. Roussel’s translated narration notes after that point, it’d be a matter of milliseconds before the object’s gravity tore us apart. A phenomenon that astrophysicists refer to as spaghettification because of the way it stretches the body. A result of a black hole’s gravity having a substantially stronger pull on its victim’s feet versus their head.

Although the video at top doesn’t visualize it, the explainer immediately above shows the last thing somebody falling into a black hole would see. As for the final images? Roussel says a person would see themselves on the surface of a lightless planet. Itself surrounded by an intense circle of light. Which sounds kind of peaceful, actually. Aside from the whole “getting shred to bits” part.

Feature image: SceinceClic English

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