For the first time, scientists have created a virtual reality simulation of the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A that lurks right in the center of the Milky Way. Researchers from the Netherlands and Goethe University, and Germany and Radboud University were able to perform this feat by taking astrophysical models of the black hole so they could turn these into images that, when compiled, formed a perfect 360 degree virtual reality simulation of Sagittarius A.
As Phys.org reported, the simulation of Sagittarius A can be enjoyed on VR consoles and the scientists who created it believe that it may prove enormously useful for learning more about black holes.
Jordy Davelaar, one of the authors of the new study on Sagittarius A, explained that because actually heading to a black hole and examining it right now is an impossibility, the creation of a black hole in virtual reality is the next best thing for scientists.
“Our virtual reality simulation creates one of the most realistic views of the direct surroundings of the black hole and will help us to learn more about how black holes behave. Traveling to a black hole in our lifetime is impossible, so immersive visualizations like this can help us understand more about these systems from where we are.”
Another important aspect of this virtual reality simulation of a black hole is that non-scientists and even children may become excited playing with it and may naturally find themselves gravitating toward the study of astrophysics, according to Davelaar.
“The visualizations that we produced have a great potential for outreach. We used them to introduce children to the phenomenon of black holes, and they really learned something from it. This suggests that immersive virtual reality visualizations are a great tool to show our work to a broader audience, even when it involves very complicated systems like black holes.”
Heino Falcke, a professor at Radboud University, also noted that while we may have our own preconceived ideas about how black holes look, the reality is quite different and now scientists have created stunningly accurate depictions of them, especially in 3D.
“We all have a picture in our head of how black holes supposedly look, but science has progressed and we can now make much more accurate renderings — and these black holes look quite different from what we are used to. These new visualizations are just the start, more to come in the future.”
The new study which describes the creation of the virtual reality simulation of the Sagittarius A black hole has been published in Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology.