M87 black hole: Why it looks different from what sci-fi thought it would



Black holes have been one of the biggest cosmic mysteries to fascinate and baffle scientists – not to mention spark the imaginations of sci-fi fans and filmmakers.

When the Event Horizon Telescope revealed a groundbreaking image of the supermassive black hole in the galactic core of M87 on Wednesday. However, the glowing halo surrounding a chasm of darkness may have some science fiction diehards.

Even though pop culture, and sci-fi movies, have had a vague understanding of stuff.

To recap, this is the Event Horizon Telescope image:

Look closer. See how the ring of fire changes from the top of the circle of the black hole? Towards the bottom, it blazes an incandescent yellow, but fades to a burnt orange near the top. That results from star stuff zooming around the black hole at the speed of light.

Now eyeball these You do not see this cosmic monster in Event Horizon

… or this one from Star Trek (2009) …

… or even Gargantua from Interstellar.

Now look at a clearer digital version of the M87 image from the Horizon Event Telescope again, manipulated to show what it should look like from every angle:

So why is the M87 image fading on the far end? Keep in mind that you're here. The darkness in the center is an effect of the invisible black hole's gravity, or its "shadow." Gravity bends light from the black hole's immense accretion disc and sends it to the observer while leaving a gap where the black hole lurks. This is where the fade comes in.

The black hole in the center of M87 spins rapidly. Something coming at you at the speed of light is going to appear brighter-that's relativistic beaming. More of its light is focused on you, so it looks brighter. It seems darker on the far end because of the light on the far end is focusing away from you. This sheds light on what is missing from all those movie pictures. Every single one of those black holes appears to be bright all around, which is not how to watch from a spaceship would see them.

Maybe the closest that movie has gotten to the M87 black hole is High Life, whose director Claire Denis astrophysicist and "Cosmic Companion" Aurelien Barreau to come up with something eerily close. You would not want to be trapped on a spaceship

According to astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Luminet, the calculation behind the first astrophysically accurate drawing of a black hole Einstein's theory of general relativity and "computed how the black hole rotates the shape of the shadow that the event horizon casts on light from a background star field. "

That was 1972, way before the CGI we could produce unbelievable things onscreen. Such calculations are what NASA and other space agencies have used to show that they would have been more visible than the realm of visible light.

How could telescopes even tell they were staring a black hole in its menacing eye before the now-viral M87 image?

The presence of certain types of radiation (such as X-rays or infrared) in the right amounts is often an indicator. Unreal colors are just used to make the whole process easier. So was extra light in the box Interstellar. The visual effects team warped the original relativistic calculation that was supposed to generate an accurate image of a black hole, but it was brightened all around because of the conclusion that audiences would not really get what was going on. Christopher Nolan is also kind of obsessed with lens flare.

Whether or not the Horizon Telescope event is what you expect, you can not deny that it's just as mesmerizing as everything the human brain has imagined up until now.


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