Archive by category | Astrophysics

Imaging and imagining black holes

The first accurate image of the appearance of a black hole (India ink on Canson negative paper).

Until several years ago, most cinematic and artistic depictions of black holes — including many in the pages of Nature — failed to match the known facts. A black hole (the remnant of a runaway gravitational collapse) often looked like a space whirlpool, or perhaps a simple black sphere representing the event horizon — the surface that constitutes a point of no return for anything that falls inside. This would be pictured either against a background of stars, or surrounded by an ‘accretion disk’. (Think Saturn’s rings, but made of superheated plasma and spiralling in at close to the speed of light.)  … Read more