JULIAN BAUM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY JULIAN BAUM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Artist's impression of a binary star system consisting of a black hole (lower right) and a red giant star (upper right). A stream of gas is being pulled from the atmosphere of the red giant by the immense gravitational field of its companion. As the gas spirals down into the black hole it forms a flat accretion disc which heats up and emits X-rays (bright white spot at centre). For this reason, this type of system is known as an X-ray binary. Twin jets of material are being ejected from the poles of the black hole. A second, similar sytem is seen in the background at left.
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