A screenshot from NASA’s visualization of the 22 X-Ray binaries with black holes. NASA.

NASA Video Shows 22 X-Ray Binary Systems With Confirmed Black Holes

A NASA visualization offers a glimpse at 22 X-ray binaries that are home to confirmed black holes in our Milky Way galaxy and its nearest neighbour, the Large Magellanic Cloud.


A new NASA visualization offers a new look at 22 X-Ray binaries in our galaxy and its neighbor, the Large Magellanic Cloud. All 22 systems have confirmed stellar-mass black holes.

A star born with a mass greater than 20 times the Sun’s ends its life as a black hole. Because no light can escape black holes, they don’t glow on their own. In the years before gravitational waves were first used to detect merging black holes, astronomers spent the majority of their time searching for them in binary systems where they interact with companion stars.


To achieve this, the best course of action was to look at X-rays.

This latest NASA video shows off a total of 22 X-ray binaries located in our home galaxy the Milky Way, and its nearest neighbor, the Large Magellanic Cloud. All 22 have confirmed stellar-mass black holes.

All 22 objects are physically similar, demonstrating their diversity. The orbits of these bodies are sped up nearly 22,000 times, and the viewing angles are identical to those on Earth.

This visualization remains of how exciting Black holes are, and how diverse and strange their nature is. Estimates suggest that our universe harbors around 100 billion black Holes, the nearest to Earth being located 28 thousand lightyears away, at the heart of our galaxy.


Black Holes and their diet

Black holes can collect matter in two ways when paired with stars.

The gas from a star can flow directly to a black hole in many cases. Some black hole systems produce stellar winds, such as Cygnus X-1, which is the first system to date confirmed to produce a black hole. Some of this stellar wind is then gathered by the powerful gravity of the Black Hole.

In the visualization, the big system at the center of the display, GRS 1915, does not seem to use a standard mode of operation. When it comes into orbit around the black hole, gas traveling toward a black hole forms an accretion disk.

According to experts, the accretion disk around GRS 1915 extends to a distance of over 50 million miles (80 million kilometers) which is far greater than the span between planet Mercury and our Sun.

As the disk spirals inward, gases slowly heat up, glowing in ultraviolet, visible, and finally X-ray light.   From blue-white to reddish, the star colors represent temperatures between five times hotter and forty-five percent cooler than our own.


The accretion disks have a different coloring because they reach even higher temperatures. Despite the fact that the black holes are shown on a scale reflecting their masses, they all appear much larger than they really are. A black hole like Cygnus X-1 weighs about 21 times more than the Sun, but its event horizon is only about 77 miles (124 kilometers) across.

In addition, the oversized spheres also conceal visible changes in shape caused by the gravitational effects of black holes.

The visualization

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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