Ever since the first ever image of a black hole was taken, we've had a thing for them. Unfortunately, the famous image of the black hole is pretty low res (although it wasn't exactly an easy photo to take so we're not blaming anyone). However, NASA recently published a visualization of a black hole to help us imagine what a detailed photo of a black hole might look like when we're able to take more high res photos of it. The result is pretty incredible and our minds are bending - a lot. Check it out for yourself.
What you are looking at is a visualization of an actively accreting (growing) supermassive black hole. Supermassive black holes (can't help thinking of the Muse song whenever I read that) sit at the center of most large galaxies, but which came first - the black hole or the galaxy - is as uncertain as the chicken or the egg.
Supermassive black holes are called 'supermassive' because that's what they are: between a million and a billion times bigger than normal black holes. They also have the power to control star formation, and suck literally everything - including light and time - into them. That's pretty metal.
Supermassive black holes are anything but simple. Black holes skew gravity and light, making them appear misshapen. It has a rippled effect due to bright knots that constantly form and dissipate as magnetic fields twist through the churning gas, making the gas closest to the black hole operate at the speed of light, while the outer areas spin slower. This difference in speeds creates the light and dark stripes in the disk.
The closer you get to a black hole (the black center of the rings), the more extreme gravitational light-bending becomes. The center of the black hole is black because beyond the event horizon, no light can escape the black hole.
"Simulations and movies like these really help us visualize what Einstein meant when he said that gravity warps the fabric of space and time," Jeremy Schnittman, who created the visualization of the black hole, said. Until now, this concept was limited to our imaginations - but now technology is allowing us to create more precise images. And this helps us to understand the universe - and ourselves - more.