Science fiction has, on countless occasions, created plots around black holes. The mysterious holes in space that don’t let anything — not even light — escape have been the object of fascination in both fiction and reality. After the first ever picture of the supermassive black hole in the middle of the M87 galaxy has been seen by the world, black holes have captured the interest and curiosity of countless people.
Black holes are extremely large objects made from matter packed densely. Their gravity is so strong that nothing can escape. They trap light only by gravitational force. Any matter that crosses into their event horizon gets pulled into these holes due to the extremely strong gravitational pull.
Here are 10 facts about black holes that will blow your mind!
- Black holes are created by the collapse of massive stars
Formed when a huge star runs out of fuel and collapses under its own gravity, a black hole is created by a gravitational singularity. A black hole is a region in space which has a gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape from it.
- Black holes distort time
The great gravitational influence of a black hole distorts space and time in its surroundings. The closer you get to a black hole, the slower time runs.
- Black holes evaporate as time passes
Also called black hole evaporation, discovered by Stephen Hawking in 1974, the Hawking radiation scatters a black hole’s mass into space and as time passes, nothing will be eventually left. This will kill the black hole.
- Black holes ‘spaghettify’ everything
Called ‘spaghettification’, the way this phenomenon works has to do with a black hole’s gravitational influence. Our feet remain on the ground due to the pull of gravity. Similarly, if your feet were closer to the center of the black hole than your head, then you would feel a stronger pull until you are eventually stretched and then ripped apart.
- There is a massive black hole in the center of the milky way
Scientists believe that most galaxies are held together by supermassive black holes at their centers. Hundreds of solar systems are clustered around them. A black hole, with mass 30 million times more than our own sun, is at the center of our own Milky Way at 30,000 light years
- Wormholes are similar to black holes
A traversable wormhole is a theoretical opening in space-time. It is like a shortcut, passing through space to a different location in the universe. From the outside, wormholes share many traits associated with black holes. They can be essentially impossible to tell apart.
- Our black hole was created 2 million years ago
The black hole at the center of our galaxy was created when a star exploded 2 million years ago. This event is called Seyfert Flare.
- Light can orbit a black hole instead of getting absorbed
Scientists have found that there is a point close to the black hole where light would not get lost. This point is called the “photon sphere”. If light can reach the point at a speed that would be slow enough to get caught by the gravity of the black hole but also fast enough to not get pulled in, it will start orbiting around the black hole.
- Black holes exist in different types
According to NASA, there are at least 3 different types of black holes. There are primordial black holes, which are the smallest kind. They range from the size of a single atom to a mountain’s mass. Stellar black holes, on the other hand, which are the most common type, are at least 20 times larger than the size of our own sun. Then there are the supermassive black holes, which are mammoth in size: more than one million times greater than the sun!
- It is impossible to photograph an actual black hole
The image taken by the Event Horizon Telescope shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole that is 6.5 billion times greater than the sun. So the picture is actually of the light as it gets absorbed into the black hole, or the shadow of the black hole, caused by the gravitational bending and capture of light. The reason it is impossible to photograph the actual black hole is that there is nothing to photograph. The black hole, on its own, is completely dark. It does not reflect or give off light, so it can’t be photographed.