Black Holes – An All Consuming Mystery

A black hole is an extremely dense matter in space, typically a collapsed star, whose gravity pull is so powerful that its escape velocity surpasses the speed of light. Given that nothing is believed to exceed the speed of light, it is impossible for anything to break out of a black hole, often referred to as a supernova. A straightforward way to understand this concept is to think of a vacuum cleaner; black holes simply clean up debris left in outer-space. However unlike a vacuum cleaner, suction power is not the magical force that forces objects into holes. Suction power would not be strong enough. Instead, a black hole uses the potent power of gravity to pull things towards it. The three main types of black holes are miniature, stellar-mass, and super massive. The force and strength of all three types is astonishing to learn about.

It is believed that black holes apply the same amount of force on a distant object as any other item of the same mass would. For example, if our sun was mysteriously crushed until it became only a mile in size, it would become a black hole. Still, the Earth and the rest of the Milky Way’s planets would remain in the same orbit. This can be easily understood, though the following question still seems mystifying to many. How can holes shrink but still manage to retain the same amount of mass? When a star becomes “squished” to the size of an atom, its gravity becomes much stronger. Gravity can become so great that anything- including light- can be pulled in. The middle of a supernova is called a singularity, meaning “squashed up star.” When something gets too close to the singularity, it will begin to fall into its grasp. After falling into a supernova, the first horizon that you will pass is called the Outer Event Horizon. It is possible to escape at this point, but as soon as you pass the Inner Event Horizon, it will be too late. While this may seem rather complicated and difficult to comprehend, the formation of holes is quite simple in comparison.

Miniature holes are created when a large star exhausts all its fuel, and is no longer able to support its heavy weight. The stressful pressures from the star’s immense layers of hydrogen begin to press down, compelling the star to weaken, eventually getting smaller and smaller. After some time, gravity will cause the star to collapse to an almost infinitely small pinpoint. The star will ultimately shrink down to a size smaller than an atom. On the other hand, stellar-mass holes form when huge stars can no longer generate energy in their cores. Combined with the radiation from nuclear responses to keep the star “puffed up”, gravity causes the core to disintegrate. The star’s outmost layers are subject to blast away into space. They could also fall into the hole to increase its power. Astronomers are not sure how super massives form. Some hypothesize that they form from the dissolution of large clouds of gas, or from the mergers of several smaller holes. Still, nothing has been factually proven yet. The ability to see black holes has also not prevailed thus far.

Although supernovas are impossible to view from Earth, it is possible for astronomers to detect their presence by measuring the effects on objects near black holes. These effects include, but are not limited to the following: mass estimations from objects scoping a black hole or spiraling into the core, gravitational lens results, and released radiation. Many holes have objects surrounding them. By investigating the behavior of those objects, you can detect the presence of a black hole. You can then use measurements of the objects’ movement to calculate its mass. Additionally, Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity forecasted that gravity was able to bend space.

Many years later, this was confirmed during a solar eclipse in which a star’s position was noticeably shifted when its light was bent by the sun’s gravity. Therefore, an object with colossal gravity between Earth and another object has the potential to bend the light from the distant object into a focal point, similar to what a camera lens does (gravitational lens results). Lastly, when substances fall into a hole from a companion star, it gets heated to millions of degrees. The superheated materials proceed to emit X-rays, which can be detected by X-ray telescopes (released radiation). With this information, black holes continue to be one of the most mesmerizing parts of our universe.

Black holes are perhaps the most fascinating matters in space. Although humans cannot see supernovas, there is indisputable, indirect evidence that they exist. Since there has not yet been stable proof of the outcome of an object after it is consumed by a black hole, many people have their own beliefs of what happens. In fact in many situations, holes have been associated with time travel and worm holes… a la Planet of the Apes. It is vital to remember that holes are not cosmic vacuum cleaners; they will not consume everything. It is also important to know that gravity is the strange force behind the consumption of black holes… not suction! Black holes are captivating and mysterious extraterrestrial forces that may not ever be fully understood. Still, they are continually being inspected by certified scientists. The desire to learn more about the intensity of black holes has never been higher. In every way, they are an all consuming mystery.