NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center gives us a peek at the workings of a black hole—or at least a simulation of one. This supercomputer simulation is helping astronomers better understand how X-rays travel around a black hole.

This research is being led by NASA astrophysicist Jeremy Schnittman, and includes astronomers from Johns Hopkins and the Rochester Institute of Technology. This animation shows the inner zone of the accretion disk of a stellar-mass black hole as gas heated up to 20 million degrees F spirals toward the hole. The simulation reproduces X-ray features that have been observed in black holes, and allows researchers to use the available data on black holes to track the emission and absorption of X-rays:

The new study involves a detailed computer simulation that simultaneously tracked the fluid, electrical and magnetic properties of the gas while also taking into account Einstein's theory of relativity. Using this data, the scientists developed tools to track how X-rays were emitted, absorbed, and scattered in and around the disk.

The study demonstrates for the first time a direct connection between magnetic turbulence in the disk, the formation of a billion-degree corona above and below the disk, and the production of hard X-rays around an actively "feeding" black hole.

You can read more about the project on the YouTube video page.

[via It's Okay to be Smart]