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9 photos to get you in the mood for NASA's Black Hole Friday

Black Friday, the shoppingest day of the year, is increasingly synonymous with two things: great deals and the hilarious/disturbing lengths to which people will go to get them. But NASA is trying to give Black Friday a much-needed makeover, and on Twitter the agency has rechristened the day #BlackHoleFriday.

NASA's Chandra Adds to Black Hole Birth Announcement
On the left, an optical image from the Digitized Sky Survey shows Cygnus X-1, outlined in a red box. Cygnus X-1 is located near large active regions of star formation in the Milky Way, as seen in this image that spans some 700 light years across. An artist's illustration on the right depicts what astronomers think is happening within the Cygnus X-1 system. Cygnus X-1 is a so-called stellar-mass black hole, a class of black holes that comes from the collapse of a massive star. New studies with data from Chandra and several other telescopes have determined the black hole's spin, mass, and distance with unprecedented accuracy.

Chandra X-ray Observatory Center


This artist's concept illustrates a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun. Supermassive black holes are enormously dense objects buried at the hearts of galaxies. (Smaller black holes also exist throughout galaxies.) In this illustration, the supermassive black hole at the center is surrounded by matter flowing onto the black hole in what is termed an accretion disk. This disk forms as the dust and gas in the galaxy falls onto the hole, attracted by its gravity.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


This artist's concept shows a black hole with an accretion disk -- a flat structure of material orbiting the black hole -- and a jet of hot gas, called plasma.

Using NASA's NuSTAR space telescope and a fast camera called ULTRACAM on the William Herschel Observatory in La Palma, Spain, scientists have been able to measure the distance that particles in jets travel before they "turn on" and become bright sources of light. This distance is called the "acceleration zone."


In this artist's illustration, turbulent winds of gas swirl around a black hole. Some of the gas is spiraling inward toward the black hole, but another part is blown away.

A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.

Artwork Credit: NASA, and M. Weiss (Chandra X -ray Center)


This illustration shows a glowing stream of material from a star as it is being devoured by a supermassive black hole in a tidal disruption flare.

When a star passes within a certain distance of a black hole -- close enough to be gravitationally disrupted -- the stellar material gets stretched and compressed as it falls into the black hole. In the process of being accreted, the gas heats up and creates a lot of optical and ultraviolet light, which destroys nearby dust but merely heats dust further out. The farther dust that is heated emits a large amount of infrared light. In recent years, a few dozen such flares have been discovered, but they are not well understood.


Illustration of supermassive black hole pair.

Credits: NASA/CXC/A.Hobart


This computer simulation shows the collision of two black holes, which produces gravitational waves.

Credits: SXS

black hole

An artist's drawing shows the current view of the Milky Way galaxy. Scientific evidence shows that in the center of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech


A black hole has a gravitational pull is so intense that nothing, not even light, can escape it once inside a certain region called the event horizon. As gas and dust (or even entire stars) are sucked in, the material is accelerated and heated to very high temperatures. This in turn results in the emission of X-ray light. Black holes containing lots of nearby gas and dust, such as this black hole at the center of the M81 galaxy, produce tremendous amounts of X-ray light.

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Wisconsin/D.Pooley & CfA/A.Zezas; Optical: NASA/ESA/CfA/A.Zezas; UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CfA/J.Huchra et al.; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CfA