Black Holes: The Facts


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Miniature black holes, which are still theoretical, may be as small as an atom but have the mass of a mountain.

Black hole

Stellar black holes, the most common in the universe, have the mass of 10 to 20 of our suns. Intermediate black holes are about the size of Earth and have the mass equivalent to something between and a million suns. One of the most fascinating space discoveries about black holes is that they are voracious eaters. Their incredible mass and intense gravity draw nearby cosmic gases and structures toward them, sparing nothing.

In September , scientists reported that they had calculated the speed at which one black hole, located billions of miles from Earth, was eating a glob of material about the size of our planet; it came out to one-third the speed of light, according to S cience Trends. The telescope is named after a feature on a black hole known as the event horizon, a boundary around the edge of a black hole beyond which no light or other radiation can escape.

The team hopes to have the first image soon. Edwin Hubble's legacy continues to grow as today's scientists use the telescope that was named in These so-called mini black holes , like the more massive variety, lose mass over time through Hawking radiation and disappear. If certain theories of the universe that require extra dimensions are correct, the Large Hadron Collider could produce significant numbers of mini black holes.

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Black hole astronomy. Read More on This Topic. If the core remnant of a supernova exceeds about two solar masses, it continues to contract. The gravitational field of the collapsing star….

Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. The gravitational field of the collapsing star is predicted to be so powerful that neither matter nor light can escape it.

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Black hole - Wikipedia

We could be just one Universe in a vast multiverse. It might sound crazy that black holes could spawn new universes — especially since we're not sure other universes exist — but the theory behind this is an active field of research today. A very simplified version of how this works is that our Universe today, when you look at the numbers, has some extremely convenient conditions that came together to create life. If you tweaked these conditions by even a miniscule amount, then we wouldn't be here.

The singularity at the centre of black holes breaks down our standard laws of physics and could, in theory, change these conditions and spawn a new, slightly altered universe. A type of embedding diagram that depicts general relativity's curvature of space. Credit: Cassini-science-br. Picture space as a stretched rubber sheet with criss-crossing grid lines. When you place an object on the sheet, it sinks a little.

What are Black Holes?

The more massive an object you put on the sheet the deeper it sinks. This sinking effect distorts the grid lines so they are no longer straight, but curved. The deeper the well you make in space, the more space distorts and curves. And the deepest of wells are made by black holes. Black holes create such a deep well in space that nothing has enough energy to climb back out, not even light. Black holes are highly efficient at generating energy. Credit: ESO. The way this works has to do with the disk of material that orbits around a black hole.

The material that is nearest to the fringe of the event horizon on the inner edge of the disk will orbit much more quickly than material at the very outer edge of the disk.


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This is because the gravitational pull is stronger near the event horizon. Because the material is orbiting and moving so rapidly, it heats up to billions of degrees Fahrenheit, which has the ability to transform mass from the material into energy in a form called blackbody radiation.

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To compare, nuclear fusion converts about 0. The condition around a black hole converts 10 percent of mass into energy. That's a big difference! Scientists have even proposed that this kind of energy could be used to power black hole starships of the future.

Top 5 Facts about Black Holes

Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, is more than four million times more massive than our Sun.

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