Scientists simulate black hole at the centre of the Milky Way

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At the centre of our Milky Way galaxy is a supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A*, and scientists have visualised it in virtual reality for the first time.

Researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands and Goethe University in Germany used cutting-edge astrophysical models of the black hole to create a 360 degree virtual reality simulation, which can be viewed on widely available VR consoles.

Their work, published in the open access journal Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology, could be useful for studying black holes in the future.

Dr Jordy Davelaar, the corresponding author of the paper, said: “Our virtual reality simulation creates one of the most realistic views of the direct surroundings of the black hole and will help us to learn more about how black holes behave.

“Travelling to a black hole in our lifetime is impossible, so immersive visualisations like this can help us understand more about these systems from where we are.”




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A black hole
Image:
Researchers have created a simulation of a black hole, compared to this artist’s impression

The researchers believe that the virtual reality simulation could encourage children and the general public to explore their interest in astrophysics.

Dr Davelaar said: “The visualisations that we produced have a great potential for outreach.

“We used them to introduce children to the phenomenon of black holes, and they really learned something from it.

“This suggests that immersive virtual reality visualisations are a great tool to show our work to a broader audience, even when it involves very complicated systems like black holes.”

Professor Heino Falcke at Radboud University added: “We all have a picture in our head of how black holes supposedly look, but science has progressed and we can now make much more accurate renderings – and these black holes look quite different from what we are used to.

“These new visualisations are just the start, more to come in the future.”


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