Creating Black Hole Jets with a NASA Supercomputer Video Descriptive Text

0:00 A middle-aged white man in a blue shirt and short graying hair walks along a narrow corridor formed by the towers of a supercomputer .  A closeup shows the towers’ glowing blue lights and an attached NASA logo.  

0:12 The title, in yellow text, reads “Creating Black Hole Jets On A NASA Supercomputer” appears in front of a wider view of the servers with the blue lights. The text appears as if typed, one letter at a time.  Faint letters on the towers spell out the word “DISCOVER.” 

0:21 Blue text on a textured gray background appears, reading “Step 1: Propose a cool research question and work for NASA”  The end phrase appears as if typed.

0:26 The man in the blue shirt appears seated in a brightly lit office interview setting with a window behind.  The text “Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) + Star Formation” appears overlaid.

0:34 A montage appears with a spinning spiral galaxy, the man and a woman looking at a laptop showing swirling blue and pink images, and the same two people in a conference room looking at images of turbulent orange flows.

0:45 The woman, white and middle-aged with shoulder-length blonde hair and a blue blouse appears in the same interview setting used for the man. Overlaid text identifies her as Kim Weaver, astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

0:49 Blue text on a gray background reads “How do weak AGN jets impact their host galaxies?” with “weak AGN” in yellow.

1:00 The man in blue is back in the interview setting.  Overlaid text identifies him as Ryan Tanner, Postdoctoral Researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

1:07 An animation shows a yellow star being torn apart by a black hole.  The star transforms into into a large fan and ring around the black hole. This fuels and activates the black hole. 

1:16 A new animation shows the concentric rings of a black hole’s accretion disk with a bright beam emanating from just above the center. It is labeled “high-energy jets.”

1:18 Kim in interview

1:23 A image of galaxy Centaurus A in profile with blue and orange plumes coming from the center, perpendicular to the disk.  This view combines visible, infrared and X-ray images and is titled “AGN with Strong Jets.”  Each plume is labeled “strong jet” and the center of the galaxy is labeled as a “supermassive black hole”

1:26 A new galaxy also titled “AGN with Strong Jets”  This is Hercules A in radio, visible, and X-ray light. The galaxy is a bright blob at the center, surrounded by a magenta glow and a background of fuzzy white galaxies and stars with diffraction spikes.  The strong jets extend diagonally across the frame. They are bluish, shaped like cotton candy on a cone and look like puffs of smoke. The center is labeled “Supermassive Black Hole”

1:28 Another “AGN with Strong Jets,” this is Cygnus A imaged in radio waves.  It is orange and the strong jets are very narrow beams emerging from a small bright dot at the center.  The ends of the beams become wispy blobs.

1:32 Another “AGN with Strong Jets”  Galaxy M87 is shown in visible and infrared light.  A very bright yellowish dot on the lower left is labeled “supermassive black hole.”  Only one jet is visible, extending to the upper right and widening steadily. It is bluish and patchy, with some regions invisible against the grainy background that is brightest near the  black hole.  The jet is labeled “Strong jet”

1:34 The Hercules A image appears again under the “AGN with Strong Jets” label.  A dotted line begins at the tip of one jet and extends along its axis,  to the tip of the opposite jet.  This line is labeled “1.5 million light years”

1:40 Galaxy NGC 404 appears in visible light, without a Strong AGN title.  It is a small, bright yellow circle at the center surrounded by some faint cloud-like structure.  There are a few bright dots in the background and a grainy glow extends outward from the center, fading to near black by the edges of the frame. A blue animation of a spiral galaxy enlarges from the center on a gray background. This galaxy viewed obliquely and has fuzzy jet cones extending from above and below its bright center.

1:51 Ryan in interview.

1:54 The animated blue galaxy now has a few cut-out jigsaw puzzle shapes that float above the holes they came from.  Then the whole galaxy divides into 4 larger puzzle pieces which slide apart and out of the frame.

2:03 Blue text reads “How do low-luminosity AGN jets impact their host galaxies?”  Low-luminosity AGN is in yellow.  A faint spiral galaxy image fades into the background, followed by a brief shot of the blue columns of the DISCOVER supercomputer.

2:15 Blue text inter title fades in onto the gray background.  It reads “Step 2: Research ” followed by a typed in “and write code” 

2:20 Brief shots of Ryan in interview and a portion of a mostly out-of-focus computer screen displaying green text that includes the name “Athena++”

2:24 There is a series of very brief shots all titled “Athena-based simulations”’ Lower labels show them to be turbulent mixing, protostar disk, supernovae, magnetic reconnection and galactic outflow.  They appear in different styles, some with labeled graph axes and scales.  Many are in shades of blue and green and a few in orange colors that make them resemble fire.  They all show complex, turbulent structures that resemble waves, or clouds, or fire.

2:31 Montage of shots of Ryan and his computer screen which contains indistinct but colorful lines of code against a dark gray background.  Ryan’s room is dark and he is lit only by the glow of the screen.

2:56 Another blue text inter title.  It begins “Step 3: Request” and “supercomputer time” types in.

2:59 A white hallway with a sequence of images showing hazy orange disks hanging on the wall.  To the left, in the background and out of focus, Ryan and Kim enter an open conference room.

3:03 Kim in interview

3:05 Kim and Ryan sit across from each other in the conference room with open laptops and converse inaudibly.

3:10 Kim stands in front of the DISCOVER supercomputer, leaning in to look more closely at it.  The room is now lit with fluorescent lights in the ceiling, giving the first clear look at the computers.  Each tower has a glossy front panel with part of an image of Earth printed on it.  Most have one letter of DISCOVER at the top.  The blue glow comes from behind and to the side of each front panel and is still very distinct, despite the bright lighting.

3:12 A short sequence of shots of a computer screen with changes in focus revealing text describing high-end computing at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation and using DISCOVER.

3:19 Several shots of Kim and Ryan sitting at a table in the brightly lit supercomputer room.  They have papers in front of them and are talking with a white man in a black t-shirt and green hat sitting behind a row of computer screens.

3:36 Ryan in interview

3:37 The camera floats between two rows of other supercomputer towers.  The room is dark and lit only by the computer lights.  The end of the row is lit by a diffuse bluish glow.  The towers to the left are mostly dark while the towers on the right have small green and blue lights.

3:43 The next blue-text inter title.  The text “Step 4: Access the supercomputer” fades in, then “and input your code” types on.

3:47 A sequence of Ryan in his well-lit office typing at his computer, then walking between the rows of supercomputer towers, looking to his side at them, back in his office, now more dimly lit, with windows of computer code up as a close-up shows him typing more, and then a shot of the DISCOVER computer towers in the dark.

4:23 Next blue-text inter title. “Step 5:” fades in, followed by “Wait” typing on.

4:28 Three sequential shots peer through Ryan’s door to see him waiting at his desk.  In the first, he is playing with a slinky, in the second he is reading a textbook, and in the third he is lifting blue weight dumbbells.

4:44 A panning, rotating shot of a row of server towers with columns of small glowing green lights has the text “800,00 Core Hours” superimposed over it.

4:49  A series of shots with Ryan writing at his desk, talking to Kim in front in a brightly lit common space with a nebula image behind them, walking down a hallway, standing in the hall with Kim looking at a printed piece of paper, the image on the paper which looks like an orange and magenta cross between flames and a butterfly, and Ryan walking through the supercomputer rows and looking intently at them.

5:10 Next blue inter title.  Starts with “Step 6:” and types in “Iterate”

5:16 Ryan in interview

5:17 Series of shots where Ryan is in a common space with his laptop on a small table.  He gets up and walks out of frame to the right.  It immediately cuts to him walking into frame from the left in his office, creating the illusion that he has walked stepped directly there. It then cuts to a shot of his desktop computer screen showing data and a scale and a blue rendering of his simulation that looks a little like a head of cauliflower pointed up and another directly beneath pointed down. It cuts back to Ryan, who gets up out of his chair and walks out of frame to the left and then enters the frame from the right in a new shot of the common area where he looks at his laptop. It repeats his trip to his office, reviewing the simulation on his screen, and then returning to the common area.

5:42 Kim in interview

5:43  Slow motion shots of Kim and Ryan walking down a bright white hallway and then looking at a large poster on the wall that shows a blue oval with jagged yellow and red band across the center and represents the entire sky in gamma ray light.  Several smaller images and graphics adorn the bottom of the power to illustrate specific objects in the sky.

5:56 Kim in interview

5:59 Kim and Ryan walking around in the supercomputer room and then standing in front of the DISCOVER set of servers with the whole room lit.

6:06 Next inter title.  Starts with “Step 7” fading in and then types in “Analyze the results”

6:11 For the first time, renderings of Ryan’s simulation appear in full quality.  The screen starts with a wide grid and a blurry green and yellow blob appears in the center.  it becomes less blurry and pixelated until it has sharp detail.  It is relatively small in the frame and almost like crystalline fuzz.  It has two lobes, one above the other. A series of dissolves show the shape evolving.  The central green and blue region remains mostly the same, and gains more of an hourglass shape. Two orange and pink jets emerge, one going up, the other down at slight angles relative to vertical. They grow larger with each new image.  They resemble frozen candle flames or distorted tulip flowers.

6:23  Against a plain black background a series of these renderings fade in and out across the screen.  Each one is rotating around its center like an item on display.  In some the jets are large and mostly magenta, others have the jets split in two.  Some jets are more orange and are thinner and less robust.  One rendering contains mostly the green and yellow central fuzz, but tipped more horizontally, with only a small wisp of jet emerging from the bottom.

6:31 Three rows of the jet renderings fade in on the black background.  each one is small so they can fit 6 across.  All of them are slowly rotating to give a view of different angles.  Although they all resemble each other, there are clear differences in color, angle, jet thickness and how smooth the jets appear.  Some of the jets are cut off at the top and bottom because they have extended beyond the boundary of the rendering.

6:37 A single rendering appears with a label pointing to the green and yellow fuzz at the center.  The label says “Galactic matter (gas and dust)

6:41 Kim sits in the interview location but is looking intently at a computer screen that is mostly out of the frame.  A cut shows a view of the computer from over her shoulder.  One of the rotating renderings is visible on the screen.

6:45 A rending is once again alone in the frame.  It has the earlier “Galactic matter (gas and dust) label and has added “Low-intensity AGN jet” to the magenta , squeezed-cone-shaped jet.

6:49 With a cut, a new jet that is tipped more horizontally and is forked into two narrower prongs at top and bottom appears at the center of the screen.  It has a large “Split” label over it. The label rotates with the rendering until it is edge-on and then disappears.  The rendering shrinks and moves to the left edge of the frame and a new one appears in the center. These jets are more cone-shaped but still have some distortion.  A “Deflected” label appears over it, then rotates and disappears in similar fashion.  This rending moves to the far  right and a third rending appears in the center.  It is just the green and yellow central fuzz, with no jet visible.  The label over this one says “Stopped.”  Once the label disappears, this rendering remains the same size and stays at the center.  Because it has no jet, this third, center render is close to the same size as the other renderings that have shrunk to the sides.  They get “Split” “Stopped” and “Deflected” labels underneath them in that order left to right.

7:11 Another real image appears.  This is galaxy Henize 2-10 shown in visible and infrared light.  It is a speckle bright region in the center with blue, white, light orange and faint magenta colors.  Dark strands of dust appear as brownish splotches.  The bright haze surrounding the galaxy fades out by the edges of the frame with a few bright star dots visible.  The camera zooms into the center  to reveal a new image overlaid on the first.  This image has a dark background with an orange and yellow cloud like shape in it.  It occupies much of the central area of the original galaxy image.  A bright region on the left is labeled “triggered star formation” The center of a narrow band between two larger bright areas is labeled “black hole” and on either side of it, along the band, “Jets” are labeled.

7:21 A 3D rendering of the Orion nebula appears.  It looks a little like a hazy pink and tan canyon with the brightest areas in the lowest parts of the valley.  Small fuzzy star dots hover above it.  The camera flys down into the canyon to show a bright area with many star dots.

7:31 Ryan’s jets simulations rotate and slowly fly toward the screen.  They are dim and blurry in the distance and become bright and crisp as they get closer, before growing dim again as they whisk past the camera, alternating left and right.  Their edges get very close and it is possible to see individual specks of the green and yellow material.  The effect is similar to walking through a dense forest.

7:52 The camera pans up the glowing blue band of a DISCOVER server tower. The room is dark again and blue is the main light source.  It glows brightly. Then there is a wider shot with many of the towers.  Not all of the DISCOVER letters are visible.

8:00 Kim and Ryan are in the brightly lit common area, looking at his laptop and conferring about what they see.  The camera floats around them as images of his simulations appear on the computer screen.

8:10 An animation shows a blobby yellow jet with a central bright line descending into a hazy, transparent yellow ovoid that represents an elliptical galaxy.  The camera flys in toward the center where the jet is coming from, and stars streak past.  This dissolved into another animation of a starry field where the fuzzy star dots move past the camera, giving the sense of forward and downward movement.  The background is a yellow and blue cloudy structure reminiscent of a storm cloud or images of the Milky Way.

8:18 Credits appear, reading: 

Image Credits

Centaurus A

ESO/WFI, MPIfR/APEX/A.Weiss et al., and NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al.

Hercules A


Cygnus A



NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

NGC 404

NASA/ESA/Hubble and STScI

Henize 2-10

NASA, ESA, Zachary Schutte and Amy Reines (XGI), and Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Additional Visualizations

Courtesy of Drummond Fielding, Flatiron Institute

8:29 The NASA logo fades in and then the screen fades to black