Unravelling the Long-Standing Mystery of Black Holes (2023)

Black holes are among the most enigmatic objects in the Universe. Stellar black holes are, to put it briefly, the remnants of massive stars that have reached the end of their life cycles and collapsed into a region of spacetime that is incredibly dense. The gravitational force is so strong that nothing - not even light - can escape its surface, and the laws of time and space become warped.

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Ever since they were predicted about a century ago, astronomers and astrophysicists have struggled to learn more about these strange and mysterious objects. This has been no small feat, and has required the dedication and efforts of generations of scientists. More questions remain than answers. But what they have learned so far has already revealed much about the Universe we live in and the laws that govern it.

After theorizing their existence, scientists began to see indications of these objects by the latter half of the 20th century. By studying their effects on the space surrounding them, they were able to indirectly identify where black holes reside. Today, many astronomers believe that most galaxies have a supermassive black hole (SMBH) at their core, and that includes the Milky Way.

This year, the Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists who have had a particularly large impact in the field of black hole research. One half of the prize was awarded to famed British mathematical physicist Roger Penrose who - in the words of Caltech scientist Kip Thorne - “revolutionized the mathematical tools that we use to analyze the properties of spacetime.”

Unravelling the Long-Standing Mystery of Black Holes (1)

The other half of the prize was awarded to astronomers Andrea Ghez and Reinhard Genzel, both of whom have led groups since the 1990swhich mapped the orbits of stars close to the Galactic Center. These studies led Ghez and Genzel to conclude that an extremely massive object - known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) - was dictating the stars’ movements, thus providing the most compelling proof for the existence of an SMBH at the core of our galaxy.

The Nobel Prize Committee has recognized all three individuals for achievements that go back many decades and have revolutionized our understanding of the Universe. As David Haviland, the chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics, said:

“The discoveries of this year’s Laureates have broken new ground in the study of compact and supermassive objects. But these exotic objects still pose many questions that beg for answers and motivate future research. Not only questions about their inner structure, but also questions about how to test our theory of gravity under the extreme conditions in the immediate vicinity of a black hole.”

However, to really do justice to what these three individuals have accomplished requires that we acknowledge what brought us to this point in history.

A Brief History of Black Holes

In 1915, legendary physicist Albert Einstein formalized his General Theory of Relativity. This theory was the culmination of decades worth of research, which Einstein began shortly after proposing Special Relativity in 1905. It synthesized Newton’s laws of motion with electrodynamics to explain the behavior of light.

Best known for its famous equation, E=mc², Special Relativity introduced a new framework for physics by proposing new conceptualizations of space and time, and establishing that matter and energy were not discrete entities (as previously thought), but different expressions of the same reality.

Over the next ten years, Einstein sought to expand on this revolutionary theory in the hopes of reconciling it with Newton’s law of universal gravitation, which was beginning to fall short in the field of astrophysics.

Whereas Newton’s theory described gravity as a force of mutual attraction between massive objects (which is proportional to the mass of those objects), Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity asserted that gravitational effects between masses are the result of the impact they have on spacetime.

In short, Einstein argued that massive objects alter the curvature of spacetime, which dictates how matter moves in their vicinity. Along with Einstein’s field equations, this theory revolutionized our understanding of space and time (which are also two expressions of the same reality) and also predicted several astronomical/cosmological phenomena. These include:

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  • Perception of time slowing in a gravitational field (gravitational time dilation)
  • Massive objects merge to create ripples in space-time (gravitational waves), confirmed by the LIGO observatory for the first time in 2016
  • Gravitational fields will bend and magnify the light coming from a distant object (gravitational lensing)
  • Black holes

In 1916, German astronomer Karl Schwarzschild published a solution to Einstein’s field equations that described the curvature of spacetime around a spherically symmetric, non-rotating mass (known as the “Schwarzschild Metric”). In short, he speculated that a sufficiently compact mass could significantly deform spacetime.

Part of this solution, which established the radius a particularly-massive object needs to reach to have this effect, is known as the Schwarzschild Radius. This equation is described mathematically asRS = 2GM/c2, where RS is the radius between the center of the black hole and its outer edge (Event Horizon), G is the gravitational constant, M is the mass of the object, and c is the speed of light.

By the 1930s, Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanian Chandrasekhar calculated the maximum mass a white dwarf star could possess without becoming unstable. Any white dwarf star that surpassed this limit, he argued, would collapse into a black hole. These calculations came to be known as the “Chandrasekhar Limit,” which is about 1.4 times the mass of our Sun.

By the 1960s, during what is commonly known as the “Golden Age of General Relativity,” astronomers and astrophysicists were finally able to study black holes. It was also during this time that the term “black hole” reportedly emerged. Before this, scientists used other terms - such as “dark star” or "gravitationally collapsed object” - to describe them.

According to science writer Marcia Bartusiak, the term "black hole" was first used by physicist Robert H. Dicke during his lectures at Princeton in 1960, where he compared the phenomena to the Black Hole of Calcutta - a notorious prison in 18th century India from which no one was said to return. American physicist John Wheeler helped popularize it thereafter and the term began to appear in print by 1963/64.

Since black holes are invisible in normal light and nothing can escape their surface, these studies were all indirect. Rather than observing black holes themselves, astronomers had to infer their presence based on the effects they had on the objects around them.

Nevertheless, astronomers were able to learn a great deal this way, and even began to stumble onto the first clues that hinted at the existence of supermassive black holes (SMBHs). Though not observable in visible light, radio astronomers began to notice radio sources that were thousands of times brighter than our galaxy. Astronomers soon realized that these “quasi-stellar objects” (or quasars, for short) were at the center of most massive galaxies, including our own.

Unravelling the Long-Standing Mystery of Black Holes (2)

Those galaxies that exhibited them were remarkably more energetic in their central regions, leading to the term “Active Galactic Nuclei” (AGN) to describe galaxies that possessed a quasar. In time, astronomers realized that these objects were too large to be stellar masses, and therefore had to be gravitationally-compact objects (black holes).

The next great leap came with the development of interferometry, where multiple telescopes capture light from an object and then combine it to create a more complete picture. This process made it possible for astronomers to detect faint objects, which includes the debris disks that commonly form around black holes.

This was how astronomers with the Event Horizon Telescope conducted the first direct observations of a black hole in history. On April 10th, 2019, the first images of the SMBH at the center of the M87 supergiant elliptical galaxy were shared with the world (see below).

Structure of Black Holes

Thanks to this extensive research, astrophysicists have a pretty good understanding of what a black hole looks like. As the image below illustrates, at the center of a black hole is what is known as a Singularity: a point where the density of matter and the curvature of spacetime become infinite. Anything that passes into this point will be crushed to the point of singularity as well, and disappear forever.

The extent of a black hole is known as its Event Horizon, which is the radius its progenitor star will retreat to after undergoing gravitational collapse. Within this radius, matter and energy cannot escape and will fall towards the singularity.

Unravelling the Long-Standing Mystery of Black Holes (3)

Immediately beyond this radius is the Accretion Disc, where matter and energy fall into orbit around the black hole and are accelerated to relativistic speeds (a fraction of the speed of light) by the extreme gravitational forces at work. The innermost part of the disc is known as the Photon Sphere, which is where photons (the constituent particles of light) are trapped and form a bright ring that spins with the black hole.

Some black holes also have Relativistic Jets, which are composed of particles and energy that are blasted out from the center of the black hole after it has consumed a star or other astronomical objects. Anything in these jets is accelerated to near the speed of light, and they can extend for thousands of light-years (allowing astronomers to spot them from great distances).

This is what black holes look like, at least from the outside. What happens beneath the veil of an Event Horizon is not currently known, and may never be. Unfortunately, this is one of many things that we don’t know about black holes, and what we do know tends to bend and warp the mind - much like what black holes do to the nature of reality!

An Enigma for the Ages

To borrow from an old saying, black holes are like “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside of an enigma.” For starters, the name “black hole” is a bit of a misnomer, since these objects are not holes at all. What they are is essentially stars that have collapsed to the point where the gravitational force they exert overwhelms all other physical laws.

In order for objects(i.e. a rocket ship) to escape an object’s gravity, they need to achieve what is known as an “escape velocity.” On Earth, all objects are subject to a gravitational force of 9.8 m/s² (32.15 ft/s²), which means that when an object is falling, it is accelerating towards the center of our planet by an additional 9.8 meters (35.28 km/h; ~22 mph) for every second that it’s falling.

To “escape” Earth’s gravity, one needs to achieve a velocity of 11.186 km/s (40,270 km/h; 25,020 mph) or higher. On the Sun, the escape velocity is about fifty-five times higher: 617.7 km/s (~2220 km/h; 1380 mph). The speed of light, on the other hand, is a whopping 299,792,458 m/s - or about 107.9 million km/h; 670.6 million mph.

What this means is that when a sufficiently-large star collapses to its Chandrasekhar limit (see below), its gravity will become so intense that its escape velocity will be equal to the speed of light! And since gravity affects the observer’s perception of time (the stronger the gravitational field, the slower the passage of time), that means that within the Event Horizon of a black hole, time itself could be said to cease.

RELATED: HOW WAS THE FIRST PICTURE OF A BLACK HOLE TAKEN?

This is also why black holes do not continue to collapse beyond their Schwarzschild Radius. Once they’ve collapsed to this point, they become frozen in time. Hence, it’s also theorized that while any matter that passes within its Event Horizon will be pulled apart and broken down to its constituent particles, the quantum information of those particles will be preserved for all time.

However, that last part remains a point of contention. Ever since Stephen Hawking theorized that black holes could emit radiation in 1974 - which has since been confirmed and appropriately named “Hawking Radiation” - scientists have been forced to accept that black holes actually do shed mass over time. While it might take trillions of years, this would eventually cause them to evaporate, and all information contained within to be lost.

This conundrum, known as the “Black Hole Paradox,” illustrates how these objects continue to mystify us. Still, we’ve come very far in our understanding of them, thanks to the efforts of countless scientific minds. But in the end, the greatest theoretical breakthroughs were made by a handful of luminaries, which is something this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics has recognized.

A Three-Way Award

In recognition of his immense contributions, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has chosen to award half of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics to Robert Penrose. When Penrose began studying black holes, there were several unresolved theoretical issues that were causing astronomers no shortage of headaches!

For one, a key assumption was that black holes had to be spherically symmetrical, otherwise they shouldn’t be able to collapse to a single point and create a singularity. In response, Penrose developed a theory that did away with the assumption of spherical symmetry and assumed only that the collapsing matter had a positive energy density. In order to do this, he had to invent new mathematical methods and find a way to describe the geometry of black holes.

For starters, Penrose developed the concept of a trapped surface, a closed two-dimensional surface where all light rays traveling perpendicular to the surface converge towards the future. This was contrary to what happens with a spherical surface in flat space, where light-rays traveling outwards diverge.

A consequence of this theory is that within a black hole’s Event Horizon, time and space switch roles, to the point where traveling out of a black hole would be tantamount to traveling backward in time. An even more dramatic consequence of the trapped surface is that all the matter that collapsed to form the black hole will be frozen in time.

To visualize space-time, Penrose introduced what would come to be known as the “Penrose diagram.” This technique uses conformal transformations, where points infinitely far away in space (and events in the infinite past or future) can be brought in from infinity to fit inside a framework of finite size - aka. a Penrose diagram.

Unravelling the Long-Standing Mystery of Black Holes (4)

As a result, Penrose demonstrated that gravitational collapse cannot be stopped after the trapped surface is formed. A few years later, Penrose and Stephen Hawking showed that similar results could also be obtained when his theories were applied to cosmological singularities - which came to be known as Penrose–Hawking singularity theorems.

By 1969, Penrose summarized these results and theorized that a singularity was present at the beginning of the Universe (at the time of the Big Bang) - which is still the subject of scholarly debate. Because of his discoveries, Penrose is credited with triggering a new era in physics and astronomy and ensuring that the term “black hole” caught on.

The other half of the Prize went to Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) and Andrea Ghez of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Since the 1990s, they have led observation campaigns of the stars orbiting the Galactic center, to learn more about the object known as Sagittarius A*.

RELATED: WHAT HAPPENS INSIDE A BLACK HOLE

Whereas Genzel’s group relied on telescopes operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, Ghez and her colleagues relied on the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Thanks to their observations, the orbits of the brightest stars near the center of the Milky Way have been mapped with increasing precision.

Based on the very rapid and elliptical nature of these orbits, these measurements hinted at the presence of an extremely massive object. Their pioneering work has provided the astronomical community with the most convincing evidence yet that Sagittarius A* is an SMBH at the center of the Milky Way

Genzel and Ghez further developed methods to see through the huge clouds of obscuring dust and gas at the center of the Milky Way. This consisted of developing new instruments and refining techniques to compensate for distortions caused by the Earth’s atmosphere (known as adaptive optics).

From its humble origins as a matter of theory and speculation, the study of black holes has progressed by leaps and bounds in the space of a few generations. However, this has done little to dispel the sense of awe and wonder that black holes continue to inspire in even the most advanced scientific minds.

In the future, thanks to further advances in interferometry and with next-generation instruments like the EHT available, scientists hope to probe deeper and address the remaining mysteries of black holes. Beyond the questions of thermodynamics and information loss (the Black Hole Paradox), there are questions about the role they have played in the evolution of the Universe.

There is even the theory, as argued by physicist Lee Smolin of the University of Waterloo’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PITP), that black holes contain the seeds of new Universes. It’s even possible that the vicinity around black holes is where we might find super-advanced species, which would be drawn to them because of the abundant energy they release, the exotic physics they allow for, and maybe even the possibility for time travel!

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FAQs

What is the mystery of the black holes? ›

Although the basic formation process is understood, one perennial mystery in the science of black holes is that they appear to exist on two radically different size scales. On the one end, there are the countless black holes that are the remnants of massive stars.

Has the black hole information paradox been solved? ›

The black hole information paradox is solved now, and we understand the physics of it.” In earlier work, the researchers found that when they applied quantum mechanical corrections to calculations of stars evolving into black holes, the black holes' gravitational fields would preserve information about what fell in.

What is the Hawking paradox? ›

Scientists may have just solved the famous Hawking information paradox. The paradox states that information can neither be emitted from a black hole or preserved inside forever. But the laws of quantum physics dictate that information cannot be destroyed.

Has anything ever been seen coming out of a black hole? ›

Material coming out of black hole is 'like nothing we've ever seen', scientists say. Matter is spewing out of a black hole in a way that has never been seen before, scientists have said.

Is the black hole evil? ›

But really, black holes aren't evil, mean, or scary. They just are." Below we address misconceptions about black holes, including Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers recently captured an unprecedented image of this cosmic behemoth.

How many black holes are in the universe? ›

Supermassive black holes are a million to a billion times more massive than our Sun and are found in the centers of galaxies. Most galaxies, and maybe all of them, harbor such a black hole. So in our region of the Universe, there are some 100 billion supermassive black holes.

Could you theoretically destroy a black hole? ›

Since nothing can escape from the gravitational force of a black hole, it was long thought that black holes are impossible to destroy. But we now know that black holes actually evaporate, slowly returning their energy to the Universe.

Does time exist in a black hole? ›

From the viewpoint of an observer outside the black hole, time stops. For example, an object falling into the hole would appear frozen in time at the edge of the hole. Inside a black hole is where the real mystery lies. According to Einstein's theory, time and space, in a way, trade places inside the hole.

Has anyone gone through a black hole before? ›

Fortunately, this has never happened to anyone — black holes are too far away to pull in any matter from our solar system.

What is the new theory of the black hole? ›

A controversial new theory suggests that supermassive black holes that lurk at the heart of most large galaxies could be the source of dark energy, the mysterious force driving the accelerating expansion of the universe.

What is the quantum paradox? ›

“The paradox means that if quantum theory works to describe observers, scientists would have to give up one of three cherished assumptions about the world,” said Associate Professor Eric Cavalcanti, a senior theory author on the paper.

What's at the end of a black hole? ›

As a black hole evaporates, it slowly shrinks and, as it loses mass, the rate of particles escaping also increases until all the remaining energy escapes at once. In the final tenth of a second of a black hole's life, “you will have a huge flash of light and energy,” Natarajan says.

Is a black hole burping out? ›

NASA says this is what a black hole sounds like

Scientists say a black hole has begun ejecting material years after it consumed a small star, a phenomenon described as similar to "burping" after a meal and a first for researchers.

Is a black hole burping up remnants of a star it ate 3 years ago? ›

That all changed three years later, however, when the black hole suddenly flung out material moving at 50 percent the speed of light. “It's as if this black hole has started abruptly burping out a bunch of material from the star it ate years ago,” Cendes said.

What is the closest black hole to Earth? ›

Astronomers have discovered two new black holes that are the closest ones to Earth known, and also represent something that astronomers have never seen before. The black holes, designated Gaia BH1 and Gaia BH2, were discovered in data collected by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Gaia spacecraft.

Would you feel pain in a black hole? ›

While some have hypothesised that 'death by black hole' would involve a painful roasting, generally, physicists agree that if you get too close to the event horizon, your body would be 'spagettified' as the gravitational tidal forces stretched you apart.

Does spaghettification hurt? ›

Either way, spaghettification leads to a painful conclusion. When the tidal forces exceed the elastic limits of your body, you'll snap apart at the weakest point, probably just above the hips. You'll see your lower half floating next to you, and you'll see it begin to stretch anew as tidal forces latch onto it.

What's on the other side of a black hole? ›

There's nothing on the other side.

Where do black holes take you? ›

For all practical purposes the matter has disappeared from the universe. Once inside the black hole's event horizon, matter will be torn apart into its smallest subatomic components and eventually be squeezed into the singularity.

Is A black hole Endless? ›

Well, even though black holes are extreme in many ways, they don't have infinite mass—and it's mass that determines the force of their gravity.

Are wormholes real? ›

Wormholes are a classic trope of science fiction in popular media, if only because they provide such a handy futuristic plot device to avoid the issue of violating relativity with faster-than-light travel. In reality, they are purely theoretical.

What is the strongest thing in the universe? ›

These explosions generate beams of high-energy radiation, called gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), which are considered by astronomers to be the most powerful thing in the universe. What's more, these GRBs could be killing our chances of ever discovering life on other planets.

What are black holes weaknesses? ›

Its mass, M, is its sensitivity to gravity. So Q > M means gravity is the weaker of the two. From their assumption that black holes ought to be able to decay, the four physicists made a more sweeping conjecture that gravity must be the weakest force in any viable universe.

What happens if 2 black holes collide? ›

A new model suggests how gravitational waves created by the collision between black holes spread and interact within the fabric of space-time. When black holes collide and merge to form even more massive black holes, this violent process sends ripples surging through the very fabric of space.

How long is 1 minute in a black hole? ›

on edge of Black Hole. Space and time are intertwined, called space-time, and gravity has the ability to stretch space-time. Objects with a large mass will be able to stretch space-time to the point where our perception of it changes, known as time dilation.

Can anything escape a black hole? ›

Black holes are dark, dense regions in space where the pull of gravity is so strong that nothing can escape. Not even light can get out of these regions. That is why we cannot see black holes—they are invisible to our eyes. Because nothing can get out of black holes, physicists struggle understanding these objects.

Does time exist in the 4th dimension? ›

According to Einstein , you need to describe where you are not only in three-dimensional space — length, width and height — but also in time. Time is the fourth dimension. So to know where you are, you have to know what time it is.

How long could you live in a black hole? ›

When an unlucky victim falls into the event horizon of a black hole, they will survive for a finite amount of time. If you fall straight down into a stellar black hole, you'll last a fraction of a second. For a supermassive black hole, you might last a few hours.

How many years until the last black hole dies? ›

Black Hole Era

After 1043 years, black holes will dominate the universe. They will slowly evaporate via Hawking radiation. A black hole with a mass of around 1 M will vanish in around 2×1064 years. As the lifetime of a black hole is proportional to the cube of its mass, more massive black holes take longer to decay.

Has anyone been in a white hole? ›

The short answer, unfortunately, is no. White holes are really just something scientists have imagined — they could exist, but we've never seen one, or even seen clues that one may exist.

What is the black hole paradox? ›

Hawking realized that black holes evaporate. Just like a puddle of water out in the sun, a black hole will slowly shrink, particle by particle, until nothing is left at all. His discovery originated in quantum physics, which shows us that empty space isn't actually empty.

Are we next to a black hole? ›

Astronomers have discovered the closest black hole to Earth, the first unambiguous detection of a dormant stellar-mass black hole in the Milky Way. Its close proximity to Earth, a mere 1,600 light-years away, offers an intriguing target of study to advance understanding of the evolution of binary systems.

What purpose do black holes serve? ›

Black holes are formed through a clash of Universal energy ripples, or through stellar collapse. Its micro level roles are to: recycle cosmological debris, stabilize the formation of galaxies, define the shape of galaxies, and stratify space around them.

What is quantum immortality theory? ›

Quantum Immortality usually refers to, in a classical sense, a person who is "lucky" enough to survive in any incident in the world. Such a quantity of luckiness is even big enough to keep that person away from the aging of the human body.

What is Schrodinger's cat explained? ›

Schrödinger's Cat, as a thought experiment, states that if you seal a cat in a box with something that can eventually kill it, you won't know if the cat is alive or dead until you open the box. So, until you open the box and observe the cat, the cat is simultaneously dead and alive.

What is the quantum realm in real life? ›

Quantum physics usually deals with things that are very very small, like particles and atoms. This view of the universe is known as the Quantum Realm. It's not a different place; it's a different way of looking at why things are the way that they are.

What is the biggest thing in the black hole? ›

It turns out that there is a theoretical limit to the size of black holes — celestial objects so massive that even light cannot escape them. And the largest directly observed black hole with a confirmed mass is right around this limit. This monster, appropriately named TON 618, weighs roughly 40 billion solar masses.

Is there another universe on the other side of a black hole? ›

According to a mind-bending new theory, a black hole is actually a tunnel between universes—a type of wormhole. The matter the black hole attracts doesn't collapse into a single point, as has been predicted, but rather gushes out a "white hole" at the other end of the black one, the theory goes.

Is it hot or cold inside a black hole? ›

Stellar black holes are very cold: they have a temperature of nearly absolute zero – which is zero Kelvin, or −273.15 degrees Celsius. Supermassive black holes are even colder. But a black hole's event horizon is incredibly hot. The gas being pulled rapidly into a black hole can reach millions of degrees.

Can anything go inside a black hole and come back out? ›

Nothing that falls into a black hole can come back out again -- at least not in its original form. But a black hole may lose some of its mass. Quantum theory says that "virtual pairs" of particles sometimes wink into existence from the fabric of space itself. These particles quickly cancel each other out and vanish.

What were the first signs of a black hole? ›

Astronomers saw the first signs of the black hole in 1964 when a sounding rocket detected celestial sources of X-rays according to NASA. In 1971, astronomers determined that the X-rays were coming from a bright blue star orbiting a strange dark object.

How long would it take for Earth to be swallowed by a black hole? ›

What are the chances of Earth being consumed by a black hole? Experts who spoke to Newsweek said there is practically zero chance of the Earth ever colliding with a black hole before it is swallowed by the sun in around five billion years' time.

Have we seen the birth of a black hole? ›

Astronomers using a small telescope on top of California's Mt Palomar, outside of San Diego, have detected not one but two examples of a new type of supernova explosion, witnessing, possibly for the first time, the birth of black holes.

Is spaghettification a real thing? ›

In astrophysics, spaghettification is the tidal effect caused by strong gravitational fields. When falling towards a black hole, for example, an object is stretched in the direction of the black hole (and compressed perpendicular to it as it falls).

How many years is 1 light year? ›

For most space objects, we use light-years to describe their distance. A light-year is the distance light travels in one Earth year. One light-year is about 6 trillion miles (9 trillion km). That is a 6 with 12 zeros behind it!

What are the chances of a black hole hitting Earth? ›

It is incredibly unlikely that Earth would ever fall into a black hole. This is because, at a distance, their gravitational pull is no more compelling than a star of the same mass.

How many galaxies are there? ›

One such estimate says that there are between 100 and 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Other astronomers have tried to estimate the number of 'missed' galaxies in previous studies and come up with a total number of 2 trillion galaxies in the universe.

What happens when a black hole dies? ›

As black holes evaporate, they get smaller and smaller and their event horizons get uncomfortably close to the central singularities. In the final moments of black holes' lives, the gravity becomes too strong, and the black holes become too small, for us to properly describe them with our current knowledge.

What would happen if you fell into a black hole? ›

If you leapt heroically into a stellar-mass black hole, your body would be subjected to a process called 'spaghettification' (no, really, it is). The black hole's gravity force would compress you from top to toe, while stretching you at the same time… thus, spaghetti.

Are we in a black hole? ›

Black holes do not go around in space eating stars, moons and planets. Earth will not fall into a black hole because no black hole is close enough to the solar system for Earth to do that. Even if a black hole the same mass as the sun were to take the place of the sun, Earth still would not fall in.

How long can a black hole last? ›

But don't expect a black hole to disappear any time soon. It takes a shockingly long time for a black hole to shed all of its mass as energy via Hawking radiation. It would take 10100 years, or a googol, for a supermassive black hole to fully disappear.

What has survived a black hole? ›

A star has survived a close encounter with a black hole, but the black hole has been able to sneak a second bite. A captured star has experienced multiple close encounters with a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy — and possibly even survived having material ripped away by immense gravitational tidal forces.

Do black holes make sound? ›

Black holes are absolutely silent, as they are creatures of pure gravity. But while black holes produce no sound of their own, they can generate sound waves in their environment.

What lies beyond the black hole? ›

At the center of a black hole the gravity is so strong that, according to general relativity, space-time becomes so extremely curved that ultimately the curvature becomes infinite. This results in space-time having a jagged edge, beyond which physics no longer exists -- the singularity.

Do wormholes exist? ›

Einstein's theory of general relativity mathematically predicts the existence of wormholes, but none have been discovered to date. A negative mass wormhole might be spotted by the way its gravity affects light that passes by.

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