A new visualisation from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center illustrates how a black hole’s concentrated gravity warps the space surrounding it much like a carnival mirror distorts reflections.
Seen from an edge-on perspective, the accretion disc has a distinctly asymmetric appearance, with gas on the left side moving toward the viewer at such high speeds that radiation is given a relativistic boost in brightness. Gas on the right side that’s moving away from the viewer is slightly dimmer. The asymmetry vanishes when the disc is viewed face on because none of the material is moving along the viewer’s line of sight.
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