Black Hole Showdown

A black hole wandering the universe. The lone wolf, they say.

A black hole wandering the universe. The lone wolf, they say.

Michael and Mason at the Pa’ia Youth and Cultural Center re-enact the scene of rogue black holes colliding in the Milky Way. If you thought the wild west was rough, you’ve got another thing coming. It can really get out of hand when trouble goes galactic!

Listen here [6:12m]:

What’s the facts:

A black hole is a region of space in which the gravitational field is so powerful that nothing, including light, can escape its pull.  Despite its “invisibility”, a black hole can reveal its presence through interaction with the matter it is sucking in, which produces high energy X-ray radiation. Newly merged black holes might be so jarred by the experience that they go “rogue,” careening into space on unexpected trajectories.   In fact, a recent study indicates that hundreds of these rogue black holes could exist in the Milky Way galaxy.  Better watch your back!

Original air date 19 July 2009.


18 responses to “Black Hole Showdown

  1. yeah my name is mariah and im like really confused about this, cause i have to do this whole stupid science project thing and its for a grade. what do i do.?? ;] please reply someone.

  2. how does a black hole appear

  3. What happens is that a star (at least 25 times bigger than our sun) collapses in on itself, seen as there is not enough pressure from the nuclear fusion reaction at the center of the star pushing out. If it collapses with enough force, it smushes itself small enough so that the gravitational attraction can pull in light. After this it gets really complicated, with a lot of theory involved.

    I hope this helps, but if you need to know more, tell me.

  4. What happens once sucked in a black hole? Does the iteam travel to a new galaxy or does the pressure elimanate it? Im curious with everything there is to know about space and how it works.

    • Thank you for the excellent question! When an object falls toward a black hole, it passes a point where it can no longer get out – called the event horizon – because the gravity pulling it in is just too strong. The object will also get squished and squeezed by gravitational tidal forces – the “pressure” as you said – the same kind of forces that cause tides on Earth. But if the object somehow survives that and makes it right to center of the black hole…well, we don’t know what happens because scientists don’t yet have a theory to explain the physics of a lot of mass squeezed into a tiny tiny space (sometimes referred to as a “singularity”). So people imagine wormholes to other galaxies and traveling back in time, but the truth is its a big unknown – and not many people are eager to dive in to a black hole and find out!

  5. I am doing an assignment on microbial life in black wholes. where can a find suitable reviewed articles?? and do you perhaps have any info?

    • Hi Chanelle, unfortunately as far as we know there is not nor cannot be an life in a black hole. The gravitational forces are so strong that they would tear up any lifeform, even microbial, into its atoms. And if there were life inside a black hole, we wouldn’t be able to study it since light cannot escape a black hole. So I think your assignment is going to be pretty short.

  6. Could this be the remains of earth after human beings have detonated the planet?

    • Hi Gaz, fortunately, even if we humans mess up the planet, Earth doesn’t have enough mass on its own to compress down into a black hole. If we were to “detonate” the planet, it would just become a bunch of rocky and metallic debris, like the asteroid belt. Let’s make sure we don’t do that!

  7. if our sun collapsed on itself, is there a chance it would become a black hole period?

  8. I’m very confused… is the black hole like an opening in space or is it a black star that just sucks in light and when it sucks in light where does the light end up.

    • A black hole is a dead star that has collapsed into such a tight ball that it is effectively infinitely dense. With a lot of mass and tiny size, the gravitational force is extremely strong, so much so that not even light can escape. Theoretical astronomers like Stephen Hawking had argued whether the extreme density of a black hole might puncture a hole in spacetime, maybe making a bridge between different parts of our universe or different universes, but that is all speculation. We really don’t know what happens inside a black hole!

      • Thanks, another question since we don’t know what happens inside a black hole and Theoretical scientists such as Stephen Hawking say that its a bridge, then in some point into the future will we be able to create such a device that it can withstand the force of the Black Hole in any case even though it seems impossible :D??

  9. Lenny Caudill

    If it’s true that energy can not be created or destroyed, what happens to matter (i.e. energy) that enters into and beyond the event horizon? Theoretically, it has take on a new form (heat, light … time). So singularity is really another way to say, “uh, dunno”?

    • Yup, big “dunno”. Close to the hole, molecules and atoms can get shredded apart by tidal forces from gravity, but within the hole we don’t know. In that realm quantum mechanics and gravity are both important, and these are realms that physicists are still trying to merge into one theory. The singularity of a black hole is simply our mathematical way of saying “something strange happens here that general relativity cannot explain”.

  10. hello, i have been wondering if there would be some such a way to achieve a gravitational speed by entering a black hole’s atmosphere, to travel faster than.. light maybe? some way to pick up that pull to somehow move great distances.

    • Hi Grant, even the strong pull of a black hole can’t speed you up past the speed of light – as far as we know. A funny thing happens as you get closer to the speed of light: your mass increases! so forces such as gravity have a smaller effect as you get closer to the speed of light. More importantly, you’d have to go past the event horizon of a black hole to get to those speeds, so you’d have to “fall in” to go faster than light. Since we don’t know what happens inside the event horizon (since light can’t make it to us from there), we don’t know what happens when you get that close to the actual black hole singularity.

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