Description This image shows three black holes and one normal star dancing in the heart of a dense star cluster. The very strong gravity near black holes bends the (normally straight) paths of starlight. This dramatically distorts the nearby star, causing these swirls and streaks. Computer simulations like these help us understand how black holes form and interact.This work is particularly timely because LIGO first discovered gravitational waves in 2015, confirming Einsteins century-old prediction and winning the 2017 Nobel Prize. Those gravitational waves came from the merger of two very distant black holes; black holes which may have been paired up in a dance like the one shown here.
These images stem from cutting-edge research on campus, winning our annual Scientific Images Contest which goes on display in galleries across Chicago.
Through partnerships with schools and community groups, we train Northwestern researchers to share their expertise and creativity in a community centered way. Sales from these images goes to support our education and outreach activities, connecting researchers to the wider community.