Awesome NASA Animation Sizes Up Monstrous Black Holes And It's Mesmerizing

hero supermassive black hole
NASA has shared an animation that attempts to put the colossal size of supermassive black holes into perspective. There are more than 100 of these mammoth black holes, such as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) at the center of our very own Milky Way, confirmed by direct measurements.

While there are smaller black holes that exist throughout galaxies, it is the sheer size of supermassive black holes that garner the most attention. Supermassive black holes lurk at the center of a galaxy and contain somewhere between 100,000 and tens of billions of times more mass than our Sun. They are extremely dense objects surrounded by matter flowing onto the black hole, known as the accretion disk. The video shared by NASA (see below) gives an exceptional viewpoint of these gargantuan objects.

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) provided the first images of the black holes at the centers of M87 and the Milky Way in 2019 and 2022. The planet-spanning network of radio observatories unveiled "a bright ring of hot orbiting gas surrounding a circular zone of darkness."

Once light crosses the event horizon, it becomes its prisoner for all time. Any light that passes close by is redirected by the immense gravity of the black hole. These effects emit a shadow that is twice the size of the black hole's actual event horizon, according to NASA.

The video shared by NASA showcases 10 supermassive black holes scaled by the sizes of their shadows. As the camera begins to zoom out from the Sun, larger black holes are compared in size to structures throughout our solar system.

The first black hole shown is 1601+3113 and has a mass equal to approximately 100,000 Suns. Other featured black holes include our very own Sagittarius A*, two massive black holes located in galaxy NGC 7727, and ends with TON 618. The latter contains 60 billion solar masses and has a shadow so immense that a beam of light would take weeks to travel across it.