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Discovery

Let there be light

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This animation of supercomputer data takes you to the inner zone of the accretion disk of a stellar-mass black hole. Gas heated to 20 million degrees F as it spirals toward the black hole glows in low-energy, or soft, X-rays. Just before the gas plunges to the center, its orbital motion is approaching the speed of light. X-rays up to hundreds of times more powerful ("harder") than those in the disk arise from the corona, a region of tenuous and much hotter gas around the disk. Coronal temperatures reach billions of degrees. The event horizon is the boundary where all trajectories, including those of light, must go inward. Nothing, not even light, can pass outward across the event horizon and escape the black hole.

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/J. Schnittman, J. Krolik (JHU) and S. Noble (RIT). Music: "Lost in Space" by Lars Leonhard, courtesy of artist


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Inside ranger, once one of the largest computing systems in the world

Ranger was one of the largest computing systems in the world for open science research. As the first of the NSF Track2 high-performance computing acquisitions, the system provided unprecedented computational capabilities to the national research community and ushered in the petascale science era. Ranger operated between 2008 and 2013 and was replaced by the Stampede supercomputer.

Credit: Texas Advanced Computing Center


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Illustration showing the relationships between a black hole, its accretion disk and the corona.

This illustration shows the approximate relationships between the black hole, its accretion disk and the corona region (blue). The arrows show a soft X-ray (red) traveling into the corona and striking a particle moving near the speed of light. The collision scatters the light and boosts it to much higher energy, making it a hard X-ray. This process is known as inverse Compton scattering.

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/J. Schnittman, J. Krolik (JHU) and S. Noble (RIT)


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