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Images: Black Holes of the Universe

X-Ray Spex

NASA Marshall Center

Black holes are some of the universe's most enigmatic and mysterious objects. Take a tour of some of the most famous ones in the cosmos. This image of the Cygnus X-1 binary star system is one of the first two focused high-energy X-ray images of any astron

MWC 656 System's Star and Black Hole

Gabriel Pérez Díaz, Servicio MultiMedia (IAC)

Artist's concept of the MWC 656 system, which consists of a massive "Be" star and a companion black hole. The star rotates at very high speed, ejecting an equatorial disc of matter that is transferred to the black hole through an accretion disc.

I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles

Gallo et al., Westerbork radio telescope

The cross marks the location of the black hole Cygnus X-1 in this radio image. The bright region to the left (east) of the black hole is a dense cloud of gas existing in the space between the stars, the interstellar medium. The action of the jet from Cygn

Milky Way's Black Hole

Dexter, J., Agol, E., Fragile, P. C., McKinney, J. C., 2010, The Astrophysical Journal, 717, 1092.

Theoretical calculations predict that the Milky Way's central black hole, called Sagittarius A*, will look like this when imaged by the Event Horizon Telescope. The false-color image shows light radiated by gas swirling around and into a black hole. The dark region in the middle is the "black hole shadow," caused by the black hole bending light around it.

Black Hole Swallows a Star

NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHU/STScI/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

These images, taken with NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer and the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii, show a brightening inside a galaxy caused by a flare from its nucleus. The arrow in each image points to the galaxy. The flare is a signature of the galaxy's central black hole shredding a star that wandered too close.

Black Hole Simulation

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/J. Schnittman, J. Krolik (JHU) and S. Noble (RIT)

This annotated image labels several features in the simulation, including the event horizon of the black hole.

Stuck in the Middle with a Black Hole

NASA/CXC/UFRGS/R. Nemmen et al.

The image shows 1 out of the 9 large galaxies included in the Chandra study, containing a supermassive black hole in its center.


X-ray (NASA/CXC/Durham Univ./D.Alexander et al.); Optical (NASA/ESA/STScI/IoA/S.Chapman et al.); Lyman-alpha Optical (NAOJ/Subaru/Tohoku Univ./T.Hayashino et al.); Infrared (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Durham Univ./J.Geach et al.)

On left, a blob of glowing hydrogen gas appears yellow. On right, the blue light is evidence for a growing supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy. The hydrogen gas appears yellow.

Eat to the Beat

Felipe Esquivel Reed

Artist's schematic impression of the distortion of space-time by a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. The black hole will swallow dark matter at a rate which depends on its mass and on the amount of dark matter around it.

Smash It Up


A massive black hole hidden at the center of nearby galaxy, Centaurus A, feeds on a smaller galaxy in a spectacular collision.

Here Comes the Warm Jets

ESO/L. Calçada

Combining observations done with ESO's Very Large Telescope and NASA's Chandra X-ray telescope, astronomers have uncovered the most powerful pair of jets ever seen from a stellar black hole. The black hole blows a huge bubble of hot gas, 1000 light-years

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