Black Hole Art Celebrating Andrea Ghez’s Nobel Prize
I am so humbled (and psyched!)… I can now say that I’ve created black hole art for a Nobel Prize winner! But really, I’m not here to boast, I’m here to congratulate Dr. Ghez for her incredible work and her well-deserved Nobel Prize in Physics. As a woman science communicator, I am thrilled to see Dr. Ghez become 1 of 4 women recognized with the physics Nobel Prize. (Compare that to 216 men!). Congratulations to Dr. Ghez (UCLA) for her 2020 Physics Nobel Prize award, along with colleague Renhard Genzel (UBC). They discovered the black hole, Sagittarius A*, lying at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The award is shared with theoretical physicist Roger Penrose who mathematically connected Einstein’s theory of Relativity to black holes.
Illustration of Black Hole for Physics Nobel Prize Research
Through the National Science Foundation, I worked with Dr. Ghez and lab member Tuan Do to illustrate their observations of a lone star’s travel to the edge of the black hole and back again. Over almost 2 decades, her research group tracked the star S2 as it orbits near the very edge of the black hole. The 2018 astronomical paper confirmed their observations from 14 years earlier, now with even better observation capabilities.
Their incredible discovery was stunning to the astronomy world, but to the average viewer, the results weren’t as visually compelling. To do their research justice, I worked with them to create a 3D illustration to capture some of the excitement of the discovery. Beyond drawing a star near a black hole, I had another layer of interest to add. Sometimes science hands you guidelines on how to make art appealing. In this case I had an excuse to draw a rainbow of colors! The S2 star comes so close to tumbling into the black hole, that some of its light is bent. The light we see color-shifts, changing from blue, to red, to green. This color shift is what verified that Saggitarius A* is a black hole. I created several different views, plus an animation, to highlight the research.
Animation of Star Circling Our Galaxy’s Black Hole
Get Sucked in… More Black Hole Illustrations
Over the years, I’ve gotten to work on some stellar black hole pieces. In the gallery below I’ve collected a few of the black hole illustrations created for Dr. Ghez, as well as more black hole art from other projects. The science-art gallery below contains:
The illustration of the S2 blue star as it travels around the black hole at different time points. (Image free to use, download here!)
- Another view of S2 as it travels around the black hole. From this angle, we can see the elliptical shape of the orbit. (Image free to use, download here!)
- This 3D illustration of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way was drawn for Sky & Telescope.
- Another NSF funded project, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), produced the first true image of the black hole. My visualizations shows the full accretion disc surrounding the black hole center.
- A drawing showing a top-down view of the black hole, and the swirling plasma surrounding it. (Image free to use, download here!)
- Have you ever wondered where the strange donut image of the black hole comes from? This science illustration shows how photons are bent around the black hole.
Black Hole Animation of Event Horizon Telescope Discovery for the National Science Foundation
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