A black hole is an area in space that has an incredibly powerful gravitational force. It gets its name from the fact that no light can escape its pull. Anything that gets too close will be swallowed into a tiny singularity at the center of the black hole. No one knows exactly what happens when something gets pulled in.
When the idea was first proposed, many scientists considered it a far-fetched concept. It was relegated to the realm of science fiction until more substantial proof arose decades later.
Einstein and black holes
The first person to predict the existence of black holes was Albert Einstein. He proposed this idea in his paper on general relativity in 1916. However, these phenomena were not given the name “black hole” until 1967 by the astronomer John Wheeler.
Black holes were only considered theoretical concepts until one was discovered in 1971 when a powerful x-ray source was found in the constellation of Cygnus. The black hole was named Cygnus X-1.
Where do black holes come from?
Black holes can come into existence in many ways. The most common example seems to be stellar black holes, which form from the explosions of stars.
These explosions can occur when a single giant star dies. They can also occur when two neutron stars collide in an explosion known as a “kilonova.”
Stars die with different results that mostly depend on their masses. When a gigantic star comes to the end of its life, it ends in an incredibly violent explosion known as a supernova. Some of these are so violent that they form black holes in an event known as a gamma-ray burst (GRB). Scientists also refer to this is a type of supernova explosion as a “hypernova.”
During the life of a star, it has a nuclear reactor at its core that emits enough energy to prevent it from collapsing. When the core burns most of its fuel, there is no longer enough energy to keep the mass of the star from crashing into the core.
In most cases, the star will rebound off the stellar core in a supernova, leaving a relatively small remnant called a “neutron star.” This leftover star is incredibly dense but nowhere near as dense as a black hole.
A neutron star is about the size of a city. But it is nearly a million times more massive than the planet Earth. When a star is many times more massive than the sun, it often forms a black hole instead of a neutron star because it’s so massive that it collapses into an infinitely dense point known as a singularity.
Anatomy of a Black Hole
The black hole actually refers to the region around the single point in space where all the mass and gravitational force resides. This point is called a singularity, and this concept is still one of the greatest scientific mysteries.
The black region around the singularity is an area with so much gravity that no light can escape it. The border of the black hole is called the “event horizon.” This is a point of no return where anything that reaches that border line will fall to its demise at the center of the black hole.
Supermassive black holes
Since some of the largest types of stars form black holes when they expire, scientists believe that there are millions of these dark objects in our own galaxy. However, there is another type of black hole that is far less numerous.
These are millions or billions of times larger than stellar black holes, and they’re called supermassive black holes, abbreviated SMBH.
Experts are still developing theories about how these objects form. But scientists believe that there is one at the center of most galaxies, including our own Milky Way.
The SMBH at the center of our galaxy is called Sagittarius A-Star. From Earth, it is viewed on the border between the Sagittarius and Scorpius constellations. Astronomers have calculated that it has a mass of about 4 million times that of our sun.
Black holes are fascinating objects in nature that have only recently been acknowledged as real. And we’re learning new things about them every year. Some people even theorize that man-made black holes could enable faster-than-light travel. They also believe that man-made black holes could create portals through space and time, allowing people to traverse vast distances instantly.
Scientists believe that many unanswered questions about the fundamental structure of reality will be revealed when we gain a better understanding of black holes.