Astronomy Picture of the Day
Index - Stars: Black Holes

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Editor's choices for the most educational Astronomy Pictures of the Day about black holes:

APOD: 1999 October 17 - Black Holes in Galactic Centers
Explanation: Do all galaxies have black holes at their centers? Although not even a single galaxy has yet been proven to have a central black hole, the list of candidates continues to increase. Results by astronomers using instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope now indicate that most - and possibly even all - large galaxies may harbor one of these dense beasts. In all the galaxies studied, star speeds continue to increase closer the very center. This in itself indicates a center millions of times more massive than our Sun is needed to contain the stars. This mass when combined with the limiting size make the case for the central black holes. Will we ever know for sure?

APOD: 1997 January 15 - Black Hole Signature from Advective Disks
Explanation: What does a black hole look like? If alone, a black hole would indeed appear quite black, but many black hole candidates are part of binary star systems. So how does a black hole binary system look different from a neutron star binary system? The above drawings indicate it is difficult to tell! Recent theoretical work, however, has provided a new way to tell them apart: advective accretion flows (ADAFs). A black hole system so equipped would appear much darker than a similar neutron star system. The difference is caused by the hot gas from the ADAF disk falling through the event horizon of the black hole and disappearing - gas that would have emitted much light were the central object only a neutron star. Recent observations of the soft X-ray transient V404 Cyg has yielded a spectrum much like an ADAF onto a black hole - and perhaps brighter than allowable from an ADAF onto a neutron star.

APOD: 2000 December 10 - Too Close to a Black Hole
Explanation: What would you see if you went right up to a black hole? Above are two computer generated images highlighting how strange things would look. On the left is a normal star field containing the constellation Orion. Notice the three stars of nearly equal brightness that make up Orion's Belt. On the right is the same star field but this time with a black hole superposed in the center of the frame. The black hole has such strong gravity that light is noticeably bent towards it - causing some very unusual visual distortions. In the distorted frame, every star in the normal frame has at least two bright images - one on each side of the black hole. In fact, near the black hole, you can see the whole sky - light from every direction is bent around and comes back to you. Black holes are thought to be the densest state of matter, and there is indirect evidence for their presence in stellar binary systems and the centers of globular clusters, galaxies, and quasars.

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.