There are few things in the entire Universe that are as terrifyingly awesome as a black hole. To have a region of space exist that contains gravitational forces so strong that literally nothing can escape it (whether it’s a particle, light, or any electromagnetic radiation for that matter) seems like a concept straight out of a sci-fi novel or scary space movie. The general idea is that a ton of matter is compressed and compacted into such a small space, generating a gravitational field that nothing can escape from it.
These regions of spacetime, known commonly as black holes, were first theorized back in the early 1900s based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity. In essence, his explanation demonstrates two important principles (listed below):
- Moving things follow curves in space (which are created by mass).
- Light travels at a constant speed, but it is affected gravity (meaning that if light changes speed, it’s traveling along a curve in spacetime).
From these two fundamental ideas behind general relativity, physicists and astronomers were able to conjecture that black holes can exist (Schwarzschild). With that in mind, they were also able to conclude that when massive stars die (as a result of running out of nuclear fuel), they leave behind small yet super dense cores. Depending on the composition of that core (whether or not it has enough mass), gravitational forces can overwhelm everything else acting on the core, producing a black hole.
What’s even crazier than the idea of a black hole is the fact that humans currently can’t even directly observe black holes (with any sort of telescope, no matter the type of electromagnetic radiation it looks for). Because black holes are inherently empty space, there’s “nothing” to actually observe. Instead, we’re able to determine the presence of black holes by monitoring their effects on space objects nearby. By looking at the effects that black holes have on different celestial objects (whether it’s interstellar matter, stars, etc.), physicists are able to make conclusions about black holes’ behavior and thereby learn more about them. More information can be found at the following link.
And lastly, it’d be remiss to not mention the recent photograph scientists were able to take of a black hole. Using the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists were able to image the supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy M87. The actual picture taken can be seen below!
4 thoughts on “What’s in a Black Hole?”
Aaron, I appreciate all the information you provided on black holes. I agree that it is amazing to think that a region of empty space can be so massive yet nearly impossible to capture an image of it. It will certainly be interesting to see what other research surfaces about black holes in the near future as interest in gravitational waves (which is used to detect potential black holes) seems to have increased recently.
I think that it is amazing that despite the fact that scientists are not able to directly observe black holes, they were still able to theorize their existence, find the black hole, and capture the photograph—it’s really a testament to how far science has come as well as how much more we have to learn!
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I really like this post about black hole. I also did one post on basic theories about blackhole in my blog site if you want to check it out. One interesting thing about black hole is that some physicists also propose the possibility of white hole which is exactly the opposite of blackhole. Nothing goes in the white hole. There may be one white hole documented although there are a lot of arguments on it. Check this: GRB 060614.
Black holes influence the world around them so much, yet remain a mystery. It is nonsense how little humans know about basic interactions of matter, and what happens in special cases such as black holes. Unfortunately, I don’t think black holes could ever work as portals to other areas of spacetime, assuming anything could survive a journey through one. I feel pretty lucky to be far away from anything like these in space!