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article imageNASA video simulates interior of stellar-mass black hole

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jun 16, 2013 in Science
NASA's super computer simulation allows you to peer into the inner zone of the accretion disk of a stellar-mass black hole. The simulation is based on a new study by astronomers at NASA, John Hopkins University and the Rochester Institute of Technology.
The research team led by Jeremy Shnittman, astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., conducted a supercomputer simulation of gas flowing into a black hole and found that the simulation reproduced a range of X-ray features that have been observed in active black holes for decades.
The detailed supercomputer simulation tracked the properties of gas falling into a black hole and used the data to predict how X-rays are emitted, absorbed and scattered as gas falls into a black hole. The simulation confirmed scientific theories about how stellar-mass black holes produce high energy radiation.
Black holes are the densest physical objects known to science in the universe, Stellar mass black holes are formed when massive stars run out of fuel and collapse under their own gravitational force, compressing 20 times the mass of the sun into a compact body less than 75 miles wide.
Gas falling toward a black hole as it enters the event horizon (the boundary where all trajectories in space, including those of light, fall irreversibly into the black hole) undergoes rotational or orbital motion approaching the speed of light. It forms a flattened disk which spirals into the black hole, becoming compressed in the process and heated to temperatures of up to 20 million degrees Fahrenheit, 2,000 times hotter than the sun's surface, glowing brightly with low-energy, or "soft" X-rays.
The simulation reproduced "hard" X-rays which scientists have observed emanating from black holes for more than four decades. Hard X-rays, with energy thousands of times stronger than "soft" X-rays, indicate a region of the black hole (the corona) around the disk with tenuous and hot gas where temperatures reach billions of degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the researchers, the study demonstrates for the first time that there is a direct relationship between magnetic turbulence in the disk, the formation of a corona above and below the disk where temperatures reach billions of degrees Fahrenheit and production of hard X-rays around a black hole "feeding" on gas entering its event horizon.
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