At the center of our galaxy is a massive, never-ending void of black nothingness that scientists have tried to understand more fully over the last decades. Yet our lack of complete comprehension has not prevented this scientific phenomenon from being portrayed in many sci-fi movies, cartoons, and sitcoms. NASA even happens to have a kid’s section for it on their website. This phenomenon is Black Holes.
While Black Holes are very interesting topic, they can be difficult to imagine properly. One suggestion for being able to better conceptualize this mysterious topic is seeking out videos on YouTube, which can help to bring this scientific to life.
What Are Black Holes?
Described as one of the most fascinating and the most mysterious entities in the universe, National Geographic defines black holes as a “region in space where the force of gravity is so strong, not even light, the fastest known entity in our universe can escape.”
Black holes originate from Stars. A star holds an astonishingly massive amount of energy, produced mostly by hydrogen atoms. Usually, stars are maintained in the Universe by a proper balance between the force generated at the core of the star by these hydrogen atoms with the force of gravity outside the star.
However, if the hydrogen atoms inside the star begin to fuse, they produce heat, radiation and heavier elements like helium. This causes the internal force to reduce, and the star begins to collapse inwards due to the pressure of gravity. This process continues to the point where the gravitational force becomes so great that the star implodes and collapses into itself, thus creating a black hole.
The concept of Black Holes was first postulated by Albert Einstein in 1916. Later, Karl Schwarzschild, a German Physicist made further progress in 1916 by providing mathematical proof that any mass could be made to become a black hole if it is compressed tightly enough. However, it was not until 1971 that these theories were confirmed, when astronomers came across Constellation Cygnus x1, the first black hole to be discovered by man.
It is important to note that black holes cannot be seen. This is because they are literally “too black”. Black holes do not emit light, rather , they suck light into the hole. How, then, do scientists discover and monitor them?
There are two ways that this is accomplished:
1. By monitoring how black holes affect the stars and gas around them: Based on the patterns observed in other known holes, scientists can tell potential location of a black hole by monitoring the behavior of the stars around that location.
2. When stars interact with black holes, the result is a special kind of emission categorized as ‘high energy light.’ This can be detected by special kinds of satellites and telescopes.
Parts of a Black Hole.
The European Southern Observatory has produced simplified impressions that ‘depict’ the different parts of a black hole. They include:
1. Singularity: The center of the black hole into which all matter and energy collapse
2. Event Horizon: The only part of the black hole that is visible. Also known as the point of no return, it is the point from which all matter and energy can no longer escape.
3. Photon Sphere: It is a bright ring of high-energy photons that forms the boundary of the event horizon.
4. Relativistic Jets: These are jets of gas and dust that the hole produces when it feeds on nearby stars.
5. Innermost Stable Orbit: If the Event Horizon is the point of no return, the Innermost Stable Orbit is the last point of return.
6. Accretion Disc: a big disc of fast-moving gas and dust that reveals the location of the black hole.
Types of Black Holes.
Based on their size (and consequently their origin), black holes have been divided into:
1. Stellar: These occur when Massive stars (stars usually 10-150 times bigger than our sun) implode. This is when supernovas occur. They are usually 10-20 times the size of our sun and have the diameter of an asteroid.
2. Supermassive: These are the largest occurring black holes with most being billions of times larger than our sun. Every galaxy is thought to have one. The Supermassive black hole for our galaxy, the milky way, is called the Sagittarius A. The largest known Supermassive is the S50014+81 which is 40 billion times the mass of our sun and 236.7 billion km (about 147078561202.58 mi) in diameter. Many believe this ultramassive black hole is the center of a giant elliptical starburst galaxy. Usually, the size of a galaxy determines the size and massive of its supermassive black hole.
3. Small: These are further divided into Intermediate and Miniature. These black holes are thought to be as old as the universe itself.
After now getting to know the fundamentals of black holes, let’s go a bit deeper and explore how this phenomenon affects you. We’ll do so by answering two common questions about black holes.
1. What happens if a black hole should move close to the earth: In reality, this is impossible because of a few reasons. One is because black holes do not move. Black holes are immobile and therefore cannot move closer to the earth to cause a problem for our planet. Also, black holes shrink rather than expand. As they ‘suck things’ into them, they emit an equivalent amount of energy. This loss of energy causes the hole to shrink and eventually disappear. Of course, this process is extremely slow and takes hundreds of trillions of years to occur for some holes. Nonetheless, perhaps this provides a sense of safety for anyone concerned about the potential danger of black holes.
2. Can our Sun turn into a black hole: It is easy to see why this question would arise. Our sun is indeed a star, but it is not big enough to form a black hole. Stars that create black holes must be a lot bigger than the sun, some even billions of times larger. If peradventure, our sun does turn into a black hole, those on planet earth would still not be sucked into it. This is because earth would still be maintained by gravity. However, the threat of freezing to death without the suns heat would become high concern. .
3. What will happen if I enter a black hole: The most straightforward answer to this question is, You would die. There is no easier or better way to put it. However, depending on the size of the black hole you choose to venture into, you have the option of choosing between a “quick death” and “a very quick death”. For larger black holes like a Supermassive, you would have the luxury of a “quick death.” This is because the force of gravity is still relatively the same along the distance of the Horizon, and the point of singularity is still farther down. The closer you get to the point of singularity, the more the pressure increases until your skin, muscle, bones, organs, and eventually, your cells themselves melt under the weight of ever-increasing pressure. In the case of smaller black holes like stellar holes that have thinner Horizon layers and closer points of singularity, you will melt the moment you hit the horizon (and for some even before), thus a “very quick death”.
One of the most exciting things about black holes is that the laws of physics, both Classical and Quantum, do not apply to them. All laws are suspended when it comes to black holes. This leads to the thought that a black hole could very well be a doorway into something more. Is there something at the end of nothingness? See you in the next article to find out.