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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