What We Know About Black Holes

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Think about black holes for too long and it’s understandable that you’d grow a bit uncomfortable. After all, if the theories are to be believed. Black holes are vortexes in outer space that pull everything into their gaping centers – including light – from which nothing every returns.

That being said, what do we really know about them?

What Exactly Is a Black Hole?

The technical definition is that black hole is a spot in space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape it. This is happening because matter has been forced into such a tiny space. An example of a phenomenon that could cause this would be a star dying.

It may have already occurred to you, though, that the lack of light caused by black holes means that they’re actually impossible to see. For all intents and purposes, they are completely invisible.

NASA uses special telescopes that can pick up on the activities of stars nearby black holes, which gives us a good indication of where they may be.

While we usually think of black holes as being massive, this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, many scientists believe that the smallest may be just the size of an atom. However, even these tiny black holes would have the mass of a mountain. Of course, there are also “stellar” and “supermassive” black holes, which are significantly more massive than the sun.

They Have Event Horizons

Though the idea is now in some dispute, namely by such minds as Stephen Hawking, the conventional theory states that black holes have event horizons. This refers to the region that surrounds them from which there is no return. Once any object passes the event horizon, the black hole will destroy it.

That being said, sometimes, it seems as though matter is sometimes drawn to black holes only to ricochet off of them. Instead of being tugged toward destruction, this matter is flung across the universe at speeds at almost relativistic rates of speed. While the black hole remains invisible, the jets caused by this interaction can be seen from great distance.

The event horizon is also the beginning of where light can no longer escape. In this way, it also represents the outer perimeter of the black hole itself.

There Are Huge Numbers of Them

It’s easy to think of black holes as these rare phenomenons. The truth is that most scientists think there are somewhere around 10 million black holes in the Milky Way alone. Keep in mind that many of these are supposed to be roughly three times the size of the sun or even bigger.

Also, many astronomers have estimated that the actual Milky Way population of black holes is closer to a billion.

They Still Haven’t Been Proven

As you can probably understand, black holes are very hard to actually study, much less draw conclusions about. After all, they’re invisible and their most notable feature is the destruction of everything that comes in contact with them.

Of course, this is if they’re even real. As we mentioned earlier, even Stephen Hawking has recently changed his mind about their exact makeup. Hawking has always been associated with black holes, despite the fact that the idea was first proposed by John Michell back in the late 18th century.

At the moment, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project is the best hope we have to start garnering answers about the possibility of black holes. More than 30 institutes from all over the world are working together to provide readings from separate radio telescope facilities. In effect, these telescopes will work together to create a digital version the size of the entire planet, which should help us get answers about black holes.

Although we can’t say definitively if black holes exist or not, the above should give you some insights about what they most likely entail if they are, in fact, real.


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