Different Images For Different Audiences

This is an image I saw being used to illustrate an article  on the BBC website, “Black hole blows huge gas bubble”, 8th July 2010. It’s an official image from NASA and I think quite obviously a piece of artwork produced digitally. I had an argument with a relative over this image as they were convinced this was a photo.

Looking around on the web I found some different images of this same black hole which are definitely photographic in nature.

The first one I found on the NASA website here clearly shows the location of the black hole and its appearance at several different wavelengths.

This image is from Nature magazine here and is used to illustrate the paper about this particular black hole. This is again photographic but it is much more difficult to interperate. I understand that the two yellow blobs at each end are part of the jets of material that the black hole is ejecting.

So the piece of space art is used to represent an object that can not be viewed directly at all and can only be detected when it interacts with other objects, making what might otherwise be an esoteric piece of news more interesting to the average person.


3 thoughts on “Different Images For Different Audiences

  1. It’s definitely an impression. It looks lovely and I’d be delighted to have it on my wall … but we can only resolve disks *at all* for a very small handful of stars, as seen from Earth. Let alone at that level of detail…

    *If* I’m interpreting the second image correctly (which I might not be), I think it’s showing a radio-wave plot (the contours) overlaid on top of an X-ray image. The plume will be bright in the X-rays where it’s being accelerated (at the start) and will also emit when it gets abruptly slowed down by the interstellar medium (that will be the second dot). But you’ll get radio emission all the way along the jet, so you can use the radio to map the overall shape and the X-rays to map the ‘shocks'(where the velocity changes).

    I find it fascinating that radio and X-ray so often complement each other, given that they’re the opposite ends of the EM spectrum!

    • Oh, wait, no, I’m talking rubbish. It’s H-alpha emission, not radio!! Would be a good idea if I actually looked first before wittering, wouldn’t it?

      (It looked a lot like many radio/X-ray combination plots that I’ve seen…)

  2. Of these three images I think the NASA website one is the best. It’s actually showing the object as it was detected but it is also putting it in to context. I personally think the painting at the top is very misleading, it’s lovely to look at but it gives a non-science person completely the wrong idea about what is possible with current imaging technology.

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