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NASA simulation shows what it's like to travel to a black hole, results are mind-boggling

NASA's sim shows 640 million km journey toward a black hole and what happens if an object falls in.

NASA simulation shows what it's like to travel to a black hole, results are mind-boggling
Cover Image Source: YouTube | NASA Goddard

Black holes have always fascinated scientists. The question "What lies beyond the event horizon?" has sparked countless theories. Some suggest black holes contain other universes, while others believe they harbor singularities. Recently, NASA offered a more personal glimpse into what it would be like to fall into a black hole.

Cover Image Source: In this handout photo provided by the National Science Foundation, the Event Horizon Telescope captures a black hole at the center of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon, in an image released on April 10, 2019
Image Source: In this handout photo provided by the National Science Foundation, the Event Horizon Telescope captures a black hole at the center of galaxy M87. Image released on April 10, 2019.

NASA has uploaded a YouTube video that simulates a journey inside a black hole, offering a first-person perspective of this mind-bending experience. This immersive simulation was created using Discover, a powerful supercomputer started in 2006 with 3.3 teraflops of processing power. Discover remains a crucial tool for NASA. According to BBC, creating the simulation took five days on Discover, a task that would have taken 10 years on a regular laptop.

The video opens with a camera approaching a black hole, much like the one at the center of our galaxy, encircled by a swirling accretion disk of hot gas. It vividly illustrates how space and stars distort inside the black hole.

Image source: The European Space Agency photograph released on October 25, 2001, shows a supermassive black hole in the core of the galaxy MCG-6-30-15 as seen through the X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission (XMM-Newton) satellite (Photo by ESA/Getty Images)
Image source: The European Space Agency photograph released on October 25, 2001, shows a supermassive black hole in the core of the galaxy MCG-6-30-15 as seen through the X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission (XMM-Newton) satellite (Photo by ESA/Getty Images)

The clip is sped up to show what would be happening at a faster pace. The destination of the simulation is a virtual supermassive black hole with a mass 4.3 million times that of Earth's sun, a size equivalent to the monster Sagittarius A* located at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

Black holes are huge concentrations of matter packed into very tiny spaces. What makes this cosmic object powerful is the presence of gravity, which is so strong that nothing, including light and other electromagnetic waves, can escape it. Time inside a black hole passes differently than on Earth due to time dilation. For instance, a year near a black hole could be 80 years on Earth.

NASA has tried to provide a more immersive experience through 360-degree rendered videos where we see two visualizations getting divided into one-minute trips which allow viewers to look around during the trip, and extended versions with explanations to guide viewers on what they're witnessing.



 

The simulation video uploaded by NASA amazed the online community. Since its release, the video has raked in over 400,000 views and has had over 3,000 likes. While some people have expressed their astonishment towards the beautiful video, others have pointed out their fear of the unknown deep end. "Oh, I hate this...Black Holes are such a fascinating part of space, and I find them insanely cool, but man do they unlock a deep fear within me," commented @himeoftwili. Comparing it to meditation, @babayaga1603 commented, "It's like a deep state of meditation where you will find nobody." 

Image Source : YouTube I @dixielovekamp9623
Image Source: YouTube I @dixielovekamp9623
Image Source: YouTube I @helenmak7116
Image Source: YouTube I @helenmak7116

Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland who also produced the visualizations, gave more insight on the concept of time in a black hole. He said, "This situation can be even more extreme. If the black hole were rapidly rotating, like the one shown in the 2014 movie 'Interstellar,' (the astronaut) would return many years younger than her shipmates," per USA TODAY.

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