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Experience NASA’s remarkable new visualization of jumping into a black hole

If you have ever fantasized about traveling into a black hole but are deterred by the prospect of your body being stretched into plasma (a phenomenon known as spaghettification), NASA offers a solution. Experience a captivating 360° visualization that depicts the journey around a black hole, culminating in the moment of crossing the event horizon.

The event horizon of a black hole represents the boundary beyond which there is no possibility of escape. The point of no return. The region acts as a boundary that isolates the black hole from the rest of the universe. Once an object surpasses that boundary, no form of energy, including light, can evade the gravitational attraction exerted by the black hole. With the aid of a NASA supercomputer, it is now feasible to visualize the experience of navigating or descending into a black hole.

“Many people frequently inquire about this, and by simulating these complex and abstract processes, I am able to establish a connection between the mathematical principles of relativity and their tangible effects in the physical universe,” stated astrophysicist Jeremy Schnittman at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the creator of these visualizations.

“I conducted simulations of two distinct scenarios. In the first scenario, a camera, representing a bold astronaut, narrowly avoids the event horizon and is propelled back out. In the second scenario, the camera crosses the boundary, resulting in its inevitable fate.”

The black hole in question looks a lot like Sagittarius A*, the very large black hole in the middle of the Milky Way. It is 4.3 million times as heavy as the Sun and has a center that is 25 million kilometers (16 million miles) across. Going from 640 million kilometers (400 million miles) away to the black hole, you are moving faster than light in the picture. This supermassive one is a good thing.

Schnittman said, “Most people would choose to fall into a supermassive black hole.” Stellar-mass black holes have event horizons that are much smaller and stronger tidal forces that can tear apart objects coming toward them before they reach the horizon. These black holes can hold up to 30 solar masses of matter.

In this second simulation, the camera gets closer to the supermassive black hole and falls toward it before it can get away.
If you flew around the black hole, you would also have a different sense of time. Because you would be moving faster than it, time would slow down, making you look younger. From far away, it would look like you never crossed the horizon, but you did. If you were only on the trip to orbit, you would be younger when you got back. In this picture, you would be 36 minutes younger than someone who stayed where they started.

Schnittman pointed out that things could get even worse. “Were the black hole to spin quickly like the one in the 2014 movie Interstellar, she would come back many years younger than her shipmates.”

These pictures help bring some of the strange things about black holes to life because they are so interesting and complicated.

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