"Old Faithful" Black Hole Movie
The above images are taken from a computer animation sequence that depicts the
periodic disruption of a disk of matter surrounding a black hole in
our Galaxy. In the first image, the black hole, called GRS 1915+105, is
orbiting a massive "companion" star, depicted as a red sphere on the left.
The black hole's powerful gravity pulls hot gas from the surface of the
companion star. This hot gas forms a disk as it orbits the black hole, much
like soap suds swirling down a bathtub drain. Called an accretion disk, it
is represented by a multi-colored disk to the right of the companion star.
As gas falls into the black hole, it is compressed and heated to millions of
degrees, emitting light of various colors, which correspond to different
temperatures. The hottest material, depicted as a blue/white area in the
center of the multi-colored disk, is closest to the black hole and emits
ultraviolet light and X-rays.
In the second image, a disruption of some kind, which is not well
understood at this time, is transmitted through the gas in the disk.
Eventually, the disruptions become so severe that they cause the gas in the
disk to be ejected in opposite directions from the black hole,
in jets at nearly the speed of light (approximately 650 million miles per
hour). This process is shown in the third image. After the ejection, the
center disk, begins to draw more gas toward itself again (image four). The
entire process repeats every half hour, forming jet-like structures when seen
from a distance (image five).
The amount of gas ejected in each cycle has a mass of about 100 trillion tons.
The ejection of this much matter at such a high velocity requires an amount of
energy approximately equal to six trillion times the annual U.S. energy
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