NASA Marks Black Friday by Sharing 10 Incredible Black Hole Images

NASA is getting into the Black Friday spirit through a method that’s out-of-this-world. While consumers scramble for the best deals on gifts and gadgets, the space agency is taking a unique approach by celebrating what it refers to as “Black Hole Friday,” sharing some of its best images and animations of black holes at work.

“First things first, black holes have one basic rule: They are so incredibly dense that to escape their surface you’d have to travel faster than light,” the agency explained on its official Tumblr account. “But light speed is the cosmic speed limit…so nothing can escape a black hole’s surface!”

This is the sixth annual Black Hole Friday for NASA, where it shares some of the best visualizations from the furthest reaches of the universe. Since last year, the agency has pressed forward to make some new discoveries about outer space’s freakiest phenomenon. In May, NASA shared full color images of a mob of black holes just three light years away from another group of black holes in the center of the galaxy. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory also found black holes that are expanding faster than their host galaxies.

Here is how NASA celebrated this year’s annual event:

The birth of a black hole.

10. Black Hole Birth Announcement

The above is a visualization of a black hole’s birth announcement. Some of them are formed as a star reaches the end of its life cycle, dying in a supernova explosion and collapsing into a dense object. They shoot out gamma rays invisible to the naked eye, a blast that lasts a matter of seconds. NASA built the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory satellite just to study these in further detail.

A spiral galaxy powered by a black hole.
A spiral galaxy powered by a black hole.

9. Supermassive Black Hole

The above is galaxy NGC 4151, with a smudge of light in the middle that marks the location of a supermassive black hole. The agency is using the James Webb Space Telescope to measure its mass and understand more about how it affects the galaxy. They can weigh it by looking at changes, like if stars around it move faster due to higher levels of gravity from a heavier black hole. The team estimates this one weighs as much as 40 million times more than the Sun.

A depiction of magnetic fields around a black hole.
A depiction of magnetic fields around a black hole.

8. Big Magnetic Fields

The above photo is Cygnus A, a galaxy with a supermassive black hole at its heart. The dust around it is called a torus, and scientists believe that magnetic fields trap dust to feed the black hole in the center. This data was gathered by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which measures infrared emissions to pinpoint the black hole’s food.

The most distant black hole ever found.
The most distant black hole ever found.

7. The Furthest Black Hole Ever

This image above is the furthest black hole humanity has ever discovered. It’s part of a quasar, a bright object that scientists believe is a black hole sucking in matter at the center of a galaxy. This one is 13 billion light years away, so far that its light looks to us as it did just 690 million years after the Big Bang, around five percent of the universe’s current age.

Computer-simulated image of a black hole.
Computer-simulated image of a black hole.

6. An Unlikely Black Hole

The above image shows a supermassive black hole at the heart of a galaxy. In April of this year, NASA found such a black hole, 17 billion times heavier than the Sun, in a surprisingly sparse section of the universe. The discovery suggests that black holes may be surprisingly common occurrences.

Black hole with accretion disk.
Black hole with accretion disk.

5. Accretion Disks

This image shows a black holes accretion disk, material that orbits the black hole in a flat disk shape, and a jet of hot plasma gas. Black holes emit these jets around every 10 years, having sucked in huge amounts of matter. In December 2017, scientists were able to observe the phenomenon and determine that the object shoots out X-Rays before concentrating them into a visible ray.

NIECR black holes.

4. Local Black Holes

Scientists have been studying nearby black holes, like the one above. At the International Space Station, the team conducted the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer experiment to discover more details, and they found that GRS 1915+105 above creates streams of pressure from its disk winds.

Monster black holes merging.

3. Monster Black Holes

It’s not entirely clear how supermassive black holes form, but one possibility is when galaxies collide and form a larger object. The above image shows the UV light around the black holes as they come together.

Gamma rays shooting from a black hole.

2. Active Galactic Nuclei

The above may sound like a mouthful, but it’s how scientists refer to the black holes surrounded by dust constantly falling into the black hole. This leads to the gamma ray explosion as depicted above, also known as a blazar.

Particles shooting from a black hole.

1. Blazar

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica was able to capture particles from a blazar four billion light-years away. They were able to trace its origins by comparing the data with other captured sources, creating a comprehensive understanding of its story.

Related video: Travel to the Edge of a Black Hole in Virtual Reality

Media via NASA