Imagine a vacuum sucking all objects that come close to it. That’s the general idea of a black hole partly because of how it is portrayed in fiction movies and media, However, that is also a downplay of how fascinating yet terrifying black holes can be.
A black hole is a region of space with an immensely powerful gravitational pull that nothing, not even light, can escape from.
Because of this, a big part of it continues to remain unreachable and mysterious to astronomers. However, recent research and technology have led to a new understanding of black holes, including the events surrounding them.
What Happens Near Black Holes?
The black hole is not some portal to another dimension, and getting close or into it may not be as exciting as we thought.
Because of its extremely strong gravitational force, anything that comes near it likely is sucked in and faces a gruesome fate that is known as “Spaghettification”. It is the horizontal compression and vertical stretching of an object falling into a black hole, like a noodle or pasta, hence its name.
This intense gravity around black holes affects other objects in space, such as stars and planets. These objects can be thrown into orbit around the black hole and even swallowed up by it over time.
In 2020, astronomers were able to witness the spaghettification of a star that came too close to a black hole in a spiral galaxy in the Eridanus constellation. Spaghettification events such as this are rare and therefore harder to study.
Time appears to slow down and space-time is distorted near a black hole. It’s like looking at a clock close to it ticking slowly, much slower than if it is farther from the black hole.
This phenomenon is known as gravitational time dilation which is the difference in the elapsed time measured by a close observer as compared to the elapsed time measured by a faraway observer. It is caused by the gravitational force of a massive object, such as that of a black hole.
Gravitational time dilation was first predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. One of the most famous examples of this phenomenon is the twin paradox: if one twin stays on Earth while the other travels out into space and then returns, upon their return, they would have aged less than their stay-at-home sibling.
Time dilation causes an object falling into a black hole to appear slower as it closes the event horizon, allowing us to study its behavior near a black hole in greater detail than if they were located at a greater distance. This knowledge contributes significantly to our understanding of the mysterious properties of these fascinating objects in space.
Black holes themselves do not emit heat and light, but their surrounding can be very bright and hot.
Accretion disks are dense, swirling clouds of gas and other debris that form around black holes as the material fall into the black hole. They heat up to extremely high temperatures due to friction and emit huge amounts of radiation.
in addition to this, the stars hanging around also contribute to the extremely high temperature surrounding the black hole. Aside from light, these stars emit a hot dark matter called neutrinos.
These are electrically neutral, weakly interacting particles that travel close to the speed of light and pass through matter without scattering. While the neutrinos that our Sun emits are not enough to burn us, a volume coming from a cluster of stars around the black hole is enough to radioactively heat up anything that comes in contact with it.
Going into or near black holes may not be as fun or easy as we thought. Black holes, in contrast to how they are portrayed in fictional media, are extremely fascinating yet terrifying objects in space that pose many mysteries to us.
While we may not fully understand everything about them just yet, continuous studies and research are being done by scientists to unlock more of their secrets. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to travel into a black hole and back out again.
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