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See a black hole surrounded by rings of light in this remarkable NASA photo

Published Jul 27th, 2022 3:16PM EDT
black hole
Image: Vadimsadovski/Adobe

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NASA has captured a new photo of a black hole using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Much like other photos of black holes, this one is quite mesmerizing. Part of what makes it so intriguing is that the black hole is surrounded by rings. These rings, NASA says, are made of material from the black hole’s companion star, which has formed a circular pattern around it.

NASA took an image of a black hole surrounded by rings

black hole surrounded by ringsImage source: X-ray: NASA/CXC/U.Wisc-Madison/S. Heinz et al.; Optical/IR: Pan-STARR

Astronomers captured the image of the black hole surrounded by rings using NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. Scientists used X-ray images of the black hole to look closely at the giant rings surrounding it. NASA says the goal was to learn more about dust in our galaxy.

This black hole is roughly 7,800 light-years from Earth in a binary system called V404 Cygni. This isn’t the first black hole we’ve imaged, either. Earlier this year, astronomers captured the first photo of the Milky Way’s black hole. That image and this new one give us a closer look at how black holes work.

One of the most intriguing things about this new black hole surrounded by rings is that we’ve never seen anything like this. The rings are made of material from the black hole’s companion star. That star has around half the mass of our Sun. The black hole is siphoning the material thanks to its gravitational pull. Why it has formed this pattern, though, is unclear.

Digging into the mystery

first image of Milky Way's black hole
This is the first image of Sgr A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Image source: EHT Collaboration

Astronomers have discovered many black holes, including a recent dormant black hole that challenges everything we know about how these cosmic objects form. One of the best things about capturing images of these black holes is that we can study them more closely.

Another interesting about the black hole surrounded by rings is that the rings glow in X-ray images. Because of that glow, NASA scientists refer to these systems as “X-ray binaries.” It’s unclear if the black hole is also eating away at the material forming the rings. However, black holes often siphon the material directly, so it is possible.

But NASA didn’t share details on how this black hole feeds or whether the rings will ever completely diminish. Perhaps future research can provide more insight into those specifics. For now, all we have is a beautiful image of the phenomena.  

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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