Imagine a place where all matter is squeezed in so tight that nothing at all can escape. Planets, moons even light in fact nothing at all! The gravitational force is so large that anything coming even remotely close to it is sucked in, this, in essence, defines a black hole. But how did they come to be? Check out these 7 facts below about these amazing objects.
1. X-ray astronomy discovered the very first black hole.
The very first black hole ever discovered named Cygnus X-1 was discovered way back in the 1960s, but it wasn’t actually identified as a black hole for at least another decade. NASA state that Cygnus X-1 is around 10 times bigger than our sun, a nearby giant star which is around 20 times bigger than our sun is bleeding due to the massive X-ray emission coming from the black hole.
2. What does a black hole look like?
A black hole is ‘black’ meaning no light can escape from it, this means it is impossible to see or sense a black hole using any of our instruments. The key (according to NASA), to actually see a black hole is to study the effects it has on its environment. Passing stars are ripped to shreds by the black hole due to the massive pull on them, when this happens the matter from the star gets brighter and hotter, glowing in X-rays.
3. How big is a black hole?
NASA says that there are at least three types of black hole ranging from ‘relative squeakers’ to black holes that dominate an entire galaxy. The smallest black holes are called Primordial ranging from the size of 1 atom to the size of a mountain, the most common black holes are Stellar black holes and can be up to 20 times the size of our sun – there are dozens of them in the Milky Way. Supermassive Black Holes are the really big ones at the centres of galaxies, more than 1 million times bigger than the sun.
4. The Milky Way has a black hole!
Are we in any danger you ask right? Well no, astronomers have confirmed we are ok you will be pleased to read, although our Milky Way almost definitely has a supermassive black hole in its centre. Don’t panic we are nowhere near this although we can see its effects from where we are.
5. How does a black hole form?
When our sun eventually dies it will go quietly, as the nuclear fuel burns away the sun will slowly fade into a white star, however that is not the case for bigger stars. When the massive stars run out of fuel gravity will overwhelm the star and it will loose its stable shape, this is called a supernova. The core that remains after the supernova collapses is called a singularity, which is basically a spot of infinite density with next to no volume… a black hole!
6. What is inside a black hole?
Imagine if a person fell into a black hole, while another person watches. From the watchers perspective, the person who fell into the black hole time goes much slower, or as Einstein put it time is affected by how fast you go. A black hole warps time and space on such a level that for anything inside it time is much slower from the outside, while from the perspective of inside time seems normal. Did you get that?
7. Science Fiction uses black holes all the time
Many, many films feature black holes. You must have seen most of them right? Interstellar features a journey through a black hole, Event Horizon explores black holes and the phenomenon that they create and of course, Star Trek features them heavily.