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NASA 360-degree video shows what it’s like to plunge into a black hole

If you were having a bad day, plunging into a black hole would be enough to really top it off. Apparently, you’d experience a process known as “spaghettification” in which the black hole’s enormous gravitational force would compress your entire body while stretching it out at the same time, leaving you a bit noodle-like. Falling into a supermassive black hole would be a slightly less horrendous experience, apparently.

To help us learn more about black holes, NASA has shared a 360-degree video (top) that attempts to show us what it would be like to fall into one (thankfully your body won’t be stretched out like spaghetti if you watch it).

The dramatic and immersive visualization is the work of a NASA supercomputer. The project generated about 10 terabytes of data, the space agency said, and took about five days running on just 0.3% of the supercomputer’s 129,000 processors. The same project on a typical laptop would’ve taken more than a decade to complete.

The video depicts a flight toward a supermassive black hole surrounded by a hot, glowing disk of gas. This particular one has 4.3 million times the mass of our sun, equivalent to the monster located at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

“The simulation approaches, briefly orbits, and then crosses the event horizon — the point of no return — of a monster black hole much like the one at the center of our galaxy,” NASA said. The video also includes labels so that you can better understand the unfolding events.

Black holes are regions of space where gravity has such enormous strength that nothing — not even light — can escape them. Scientists are yet to determine what actually happens inside black holes, though some theories suggest they contain infinite density at the center.

“If you have the choice, you want to fall into a supermassive black hole [as opposed to a stellar-mass black hole],” said Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who helped to create the visualization. “Stellar-mass black holes, which contain up to about 30 solar masses, possess much smaller event horizons and stronger tidal forces, which can rip apart approaching objects before they get to the horizon.”

Oh, and don’t have nightmares. The chances of Earth falling into a black hole are extremely low.

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Trevor Mogg
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