Updated: Jan 22, 2021
Black holes are a bizarre thing. You’ve probably heard of them before. An object with an extremely large mass (ranging from 3 to billions of solar masses), tremendously high density, and a very strong gravitational pull. So strong, that not even light, the fastest thing in the universe, can escape from it.
Once an object passes through the black hole’s event horizon, it is likely to be doomed. A black hole’s event horizon is the threshold around it where even an object traveling at the highest speed (speed of light) would not be able to escape the black hole’s gravitational pull. Many people imagine a black hole as a giant vacuum that sucks everything that goes past its event horizon. However, this is not exactly true. When an object falls into a black hole, it isn’t exactly getting “sucked in”. Instead, it’s more like the object is falling into it, like if you drop a ping pong ball into a cup.
In 1916, Einstein predicted that black holes existed based on his theory of relativity. However, although he predicted them, he did not believe it because he thought it was absurd. The existence of black holes was not officially proven until 2017, when the first photographic evidence of a black hole was received from a galaxy 54 million light-years away (Chen).
Black holes form due to the collapse of supermassive stars. An explosion of gamma rays from outer space is predicted to be indicative of star death and the birth of a black hole. When a star runs out of fuel, it collapses and explodes. The insides of the star implode and get denser and denser until it has a large gravitational pull and collapses in on itself, and in extreme cases, forms a black hole (Klein). This process could take as long as a million years. Smaller stars become white dwarfs or neutron stars.
A common question is “what happens if you enter a black hole?” This question has been debated by many scientists and astronomers over the years. The question “how would you die in a black hole?” is also known as the firewall paradox. Some say you would be crushed and ripped to shreds due to the intense gravitational force of the black hole. Others say a firewall of energy at the event horizon would kill you. Even sci-fi writers and artists suggest there is something on the other side, perhaps an alternate dimension.
Black holes are most likely a very essential part of the universe. Every galaxy we have observed has a massive black hole at its center. The bigger the galaxy, the more massive the black hole.
Black holes can even “sing”! The pitch they “sing” at is a B flat note, 57 octaves lower than middle C, which is the lowest note that we have ever detected (Klein). Overall, black holes are bizarre and there is still so much more we can learn from them.