NOVA: Black Hole Apocalypse Collection


Black holes are the most enigmatic, mysterious, and exotic objects in the universe. But astrophysicists are realizing that they may actually be common and may be essential to understanding how our universe unfolded. In NOVA's two-hour Black Hole Apocalypse special, astrophysicist and author Janna Levin takes viewers on a mind-bending journey to the frontiers of black hole research.

In this collection, you’ll find media resources that examine black holes and related topics—from stellar life cycles to the basics of spacetime. These resources help educators explore black holes and gravity in detail with their students and provide an up-close look at some groundbreaking discoveries.

  • NOVA Black Holes App Educator Guide

    Learn about black holes in this interactive activity from NOVA. Hurl your star across spacetime, hitting targets and avoiding celestial hazards in your quest to earn a star that's big and bright enough to go supernova. As you play through the game’s 50-plus levels, you’ll meet new cosmic objects like small but dense neutron stars and massive blue supergiant stars. Get gravitational assists from these and other objects to slingshot around the galaxy and hit your targets. Detect and avoid invisible black holes that will shred your star if it gets too close. Beat all the levels and watch your star become a supernova and collapse into a black hole. This resource is part of the NOVA: Black Hole Apocalypse Collection.

    DOWNLOAD THE IPAD APP HERE.

    This educator guide includes two supporting materials. The Level Guide features tips for beating each level and the Celestial Objects Guide includes all the informational text for every celestial object that appears in the app.

    NOVA Black Holes Celestial Objects Guide | NOVA Black Holes Level Guide

    Grades: 6-12
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    Black Hole Apocalypse | The Discovery of Cygnus X-1

    Learn about Cygnus X-1, an x-ray source that was the first widely accepted example of a black hole, in this media gallery featuring video from NOVA: Black Hole Apocalypse. The video describes how the advent of x-ray astronomy opened up a new world for astronomers to explore. Paul Murdin and colleagues discovered that Cygnus X-1 was likely a black hole by searching for signs of binary star systems, where one star was visible and the other an x-ray source. After analyzing data for a visible star that showed Doppler-shifted light, the researchers concluded that the mass of the x-ray companion was large enough for it to be a black hole. In addition, an animation combines a wide field image of Cygnus X-1 in visible light with an x-ray image of it; and an illustration depicts material from a massive companion star being pulled into a disk around Cygnus X-1. This resource is part of the NOVA: Black Hole Apocalypse Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
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    Black Hole Apocalypse | How to Detect Gravitational Waves

    Learn about gravitational waves and how they can be detected, in this video from NOVA: Black Hole Apocalypse. According to Einstein's general theory of relativity, massive accelerating objects create ripples in spacetime. In the 1970s, Rainer "Rai" Weiss developed the idea to build a laser interferometer to detect this stretching and squeezing of spacetime—gravitational waves. Animations illustrate the basic principle behind the device: a beam of light travels through a splitter, toward two different mirrors, and then the reflected beams of light rejoin. If the distance the light travels along each arm is the same, the beams cancel each other out; however, if a gravitational wave changes the distances, the beams no longer cancel out and a photodetector senses light. This resource is part of the NOVA: Black Hole Apocalypse Collection.

    Grades: 9-12

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