Black holes and xenon accelerators you'll want to hang on your walls

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This may look like a new promo pic from Tron Legacy, but it's actually the winning image in Princeton University's "Art of Science" competition. Physics doesn't just explain the most awesome phenomena in the universe — it also creates art.

The above image is called "Xenon Plasma Accelerator," by Jerry Ross, a researcher at Princeton's Plasma Physics Lab. And it bears the following explanation:

The Hall thruster is an electric propulsion technology that uses magnetic and electric fields to ionize and accelerate propellant. In this image the plasma accelerator is operating on xenon propellant.



Here's the image that came in third place:


That's "Neutron Star Scattering off a Super Massive Black Hole," by undergraduate Tim Kirby in the Physics Department. [ via Hermenautic Circle Blog]