Tidal Disruption Event

Amazing visualisation of a star captured and ripped apart by the immense gravitational well of a Black Hole.

As the outer atmosphere of the star is accelerated by the black hole’s gravity much of it reaches escape velocity and is strewn into space, while some becomes trapped in a highly eccentric orbit. Stellar material reaching the event horizon closer to the back hole is super heated by frictional heating and turbulent flow, generating a bright accretion disk.

Meanwhile jets of concentrated electromagnetic radiation and ionised particles are blasted deep into space along the axis of rotation – a so called astrophysical jet. This transfer of kinetic energy means the black hole system is slowly loosing angular momentum over time.

I often think the universe at this scale is like witnessing a vast machine running on the conservational of energy. A wonderful illustration of the exchange of gravitational potential, angular kinetic, linear kinetic, heat and mass energy.

All energy was created at the big bang singularity and all physical processes from star birth, star death, black holes and even organic human life is the transfer and redistribution of this original energy state.

Video credit: DESY, Science Communication Lab

Binary Black Holes – Gravitational Lensing

A visualisation of how extreme gravity can distort the light paths close to binary black holes. The blue and red halos are the accretion disks surrounding the black holes (material super heated close to the event horizon). The blue disk represents a black hole some 200 million times the mass of our Sun. The red one is a smaller black hole half this mass.

Gravitational lensing like this is a real and measurable consequence of general relativity and astrophysicists are now using sophisticated modelling techniques to make incredible predictions. One amazing application of gravitational lensing is predicting when duplicated but delayed images from the same supernovae will appear, allowing astronomers to study exploding stars in real time.

This happens when a single event – like a supernova – is projected into multiple copies of itself by a large intervening galactic mass, with each copy delayed due to different light paths through spacetime.⁣

Video Credit: @NASAGoddard