Throughout the Universe, there are many strange and unusual objects. Some of them are still waiting to be discovered, while others, though we have observed and studied them, we still have much ground to cover.
One of the least understood and most compelling celestial objects found throughout space are the “evil” black holes. We know very little about these influential dead stars, however, some of the things that we do know, we are going to present to you in this article.
Read along and discover some of the most surprising facts about black holes.
1. Black holes are sometimes referred to as cosmic vacuum cleaners.
Though its no secret that black holes suck in all matter that comes close to their event horizon, they are messy eaters. Any objects would have to be extremely close to a black hole to get sucked in.
When sometimes approaches the event horizon, it won’t be able to escape unless it can move higher than the speed of light. However, celestial objects which get devoured by black holes are usually just ripped apart rather than swallowed whole. Many bits and pieces of matter can escape during this process. Quasars are the most evident example of this.
2. Black holes can both shrink or expand
The process of shrinking / evaporation is called Hawking radiation. Space hosts many virtual particles that pop into existence and annihilate each other. When it comes to the edge of a black hole, one particle will usually be drawn inside it, while the other escapes. Thus the black hole is losing its energy.
This process is accelerating as the black hole becomes smaller. Some of the biggest black holes discovered are estimated to evaporate around a googol year – this number has more than a hundred digits.
This creates some paradoxes as it was long believed that information cannot be destroyed, and if these black holes, which have sucked in the matter – information – disappear, where does the data go?
When it comes to the process of expansion, black holes grow by continuously feeding on the matter. It is unknown if a black hole may have a limit in its expansion.
3. Since black holes shrink/expand, they can reach a variety of sizes.
All black holes are objects of great mass and density. Their effects give away their location, and their size often depends on how they formed, or how much matter they devoured.
The most significant black holes are called supermassive black holes. They usually reside at the center of most galaxies. Even our own Milky Way galaxy hosts a supermassive black hole.
These enormous celestial objects can reach almost half the size of our solar system or even more. They have billions of miles/kilometers in diameter and are billions of times more massive than our sun.
On the other end, some black holes are as big as an asteroid. The smallest of them have around five solar masses, and many consider that they shouldn’t even exist.
4. There are four types of black holes
Usually, black holes are categorized into the following:
- Stellar Black Holes
- Intermediate Black Holes
- Supermassive Black Holes
- Miniature Black Holes
Stellar black holes range between 5 to several tens of solar masses. They are relatively common throughout the universe and they form when a star suffers gravitational collapse.
Intermediate black holes are between 100 to one million solar masses. These mid-sized black holes are a bit of a mystery since it is currently unknown how they are formed.
Supermassive black holes are the biggest. Most believe they form at the center of galaxies since they are usually located there. It is possible that due to their location, they have an easier time finding matter to consume and grow. When galaxies collide, these black holes can merge and get even more significant. Their masses are billions of times higher than our Sun.
Miniature black holes are quite strange. They have around 5 solar masses, with the smallest ever discovered having only 3.3 solar masses. Many believe they formed in the early stages of the universe.
Apart from the types above, there are also two other particular types of black holes:
A. White Black Holes
The most exciting type is called a white hole. These types of black holes are still only theoretical yet they have captivated our attention since they have opposite features.
White holes don’t eat matter, but rather expel it. Some believe that the actual Big Bang was a supermassive white hole. If nothing can escape from a regular black hole, in the case of a white hole, nothing could get in.
B. Spinning Black Holes
The second more bizarre type of black holes, are the spinning black holes. These celestial objects spin millions of times per second, and instead of a singularity at the center where mass is compressed, they possess what is termed as a “ringularity.”
These black holes are unique since space and time are dragged along creating what is called the Ergosphere. Theoretically, it should be possible to both enter and leave this region. Their energy can be harvested for extremely long periods and some speculate that civilizations can actually exist inside these celestial objects.
5. Some black holes are quite close to us
The closest supermassive black hole to Earth is named Sagittarius A*. It is located at around 25.640 light-years from us, at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.
However, the closest regular black hole to us, at least currently known, is only 3,000 light-years away. It is named V616 Monocerotis.
6. If the Sun were replaced with a black hole, we would die, but not as you might expect.
The black hole would need to be enormous to pull us inside; however, most black holes wouldn’t be able to devour even Mercury. Instead, what will happen is that temperatures will drop, and as such life would cease to exist.
7. We’ve only recently taken an actual photo of a black hole
Through the combined work of multiple institutions, Earth was created into a virtual telescope. Many radio dishes were linked throughout the globe and the first picture of a black hole was created. This happened in 2019.
Scientists managed to capture a photo of a supermassive black hole situated 2,000 times farther away from us than Sagittarius A*. The celestial object was estimated to be 1,000 times more massive than our galaxies’ own supermassive black hole.
8. If you fell inside a black hole, you would suffer the effects known as “spaghettification.”
Though to be completely honest, we won’t know what will happen until we will probably invent better technology and test it out ourselves. However, most scientists agree that everything is torn apart inside a black hole.
Some believe that you would end up in a different universe, while others state that we already live inside a black hole. Though, as mentioned above, it could be possible to exit a spinning black hole.
9. The first black hole to be discovered is named Cygnus X-1. However, their existence was speculated long before.
In the 1960s, John Archibald Wheeler coined the term “black hole.” The speculation of their existence stretched back to 250 years ago when the English philosopher and clergyman John Michell predicted their existence.
However, from a more scientific point of view, it was Einstein’s theory of general relativity that further convinced scientists that such objects might exist.
Black holes form when a massive star dies. If the core of the dead star is at least three solar masses, then gravity overwhelms other forces and the core collapses, producing a black hole.