Space mysteries: What is a black hole?
There are a lot of scientific mysteries beyond the world that man is unable to tackle due to technological constraints. So far, man has only walked on the moon, sent apparatuses as far as Pluto, and peer through telescopes at stars and planets too distant to examine or visit. But among outer space’s most amazing and frightening enigma is the black hole. As college student and astrophysics major Alexis Fecteau points out, black holes are one of science’s greatest discoveries.
A black hole ironically isn’t just an empty space. A black hole is a point in space filled with a great amount of mass in a very small area. Imagine a star that’s a hundred times bigger than the sun and squeezing all that mass within a space smaller than the Earth. Because of its mass, its gravitational pull is strong enough that not even light can escape its pull.
The first mentions of a black hole came from Einstein’s theory of general relativity. According to the theory, a dying star leaves a trace amount of matter that’s so dense that its gravitational pull can overwhelm other forces and pull them inside. What’s even more interesting is that the gravity pull of a black hole becomes even greater as an object moves closer to the center of the black hole itself.
According to Alexis Fecteau, several black holes have been observed to be the result of a supernova or the death of a star. But an even bigger black hole could be produced from stellar collisions. For example, a collision between a neutron star and a black hole can produce an even greater black hole.
With the sheer size of the universe, scientists estimate that there are anywhere between 10 million and a billion black holes just in the Milky Way alone. With today’s instruments, scientists strengthen Einstein’s theory several recorded incidents have resulted in black holes, as well as activities concerning black holes. The most recent incident was in June 2018, when astronomers saw the distant eruption of a star destroyed by a black hole.
Alexis Fecteau adds that the Earth will be long gone before the sun dies and possibly becomes a black hole. With the recently published image of a black hole, the entire scientific community takes a step back to see the beauty of its accomplishment and wonder in the possibilities of discoveries to come.