A new online tool calculates just how much cosmic destruction a run-in between the Earth and a black hole would cause.
The aptly-named Black Hole Collision Calculator determines how much a black hole would expand and the amount of energy it would release if it absorbed the Earth — or any other object, since the calculator is totally customizable, Space.com reports.
Particle physicist Álvaro Díez created the tool, which is hosted on the calculator database project Omni Calculator. Based on his calculations, a black hole swallowing the Earth would release some 55 quintillion times the planet’s annual energy consumption.
But even that destructive event would be a light snack for a supermassive black hole — its event horizon would only expand by a hundredth of a trillionth of a percent, per the calculator.
The main flaw with the calculator? The artistic rendering of a black hole obliterating the Earth that pops up next to the results doesn’t change to match any increasingly goofy collisions.
A new trippy visualization by NASA researchers shows how a black hole distorts its appearance by skewing the matter around it and warping the light itself with its immense gravity.
Gigantic black holes often appear at the center of large galaxies, where they pack an immense amount of matter into a tiny space. The resulting gravitational field eats up everything, including light.
In the visualization, the yellow highlights are twisting magnetic fields as they’re making their way through churning gas. The inside gas nearest to the hole itself orbits the hole at almost the speed of light, according to a NASA statement.
The reason it has separate rings jutting out of the bottom is because of intense gravitational forces bending the light emitted by the disk, thereby providing a view of the disk’s underside.
Warping Space And Time
A team of scientists used NASA’s Event Horizon Telescope to snap the first-ever image of a black hole to the world back in April. Scientists are already working on getting an even crisper, higher resolution shot using two or three satellites.
Black holes glow brighter when they’re taking in greater quantities of matter. That matter could have come from any combination of stars, asteroids, and cosmic gases that the scientists know passed near Sag A*. But the team doesn’t yet know whether an unusual amount of food happened to approach at once — or if something has changed within the Sag A* itself that’s making it hungrier than normal.
“The big question is whether the black hole is entering a new phase — for example if the spigot has been turned up and the rate of gas falling down the black hole ‘drain’ has increased for an extended period,” UCLA astronomer Mark Morris said in the press release, “or whether we have just seen the fireworks from a few unusual blobs of gas falling in.”