Things really go into black holes

Wolverines of space Black holes

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Every galaxy in space has one thing voracious and endowed with uncanny powers: a black hole. The attraction in him is so great that nothing can escape him, not even light.

Status: 05/09/2020

People, animals, plants and everything else that can be found on earth stand firmly on the surface of our planet. Its gravity ensures that we do not drift into space. In everyday life we ​​do not escape our earth. But if a rocket accelerates faster than 11.2 kilometers per second, then that is faster than the so-called "escape speed" and it overcomes the gravitational pull.

Black hole lets nothing escape

A star is swallowed up by a black hole.

But there are also objects in space that hold on to everything they get to grasp: black holes. Its pull is so great that the rocket's speed should be higher than the speed of light. But in our universe nothing moves faster than light. And that means that no rocket, no matter how fast, could ever escape a black hole because its gravitational pull is so great. Incidentally, this is what happens to everything that comes too close to the hole, whole stars are sucked up by it, this wolverine of space.

Lots of mass in a small space

A star tears apart before being sucked up by the black hole.

In order to develop such a high force of attraction, black holes have to combine an unbelievable mass in a very small space. Our sun, for example, could only become a black hole if its 1.4 million kilometers in diameter were compressed into about three kilometers. The earth would even have to be compacted into a sphere less than an inch in order to turn it into a black hole.

Star death leads to black holes

In the middle of this galaxy is the black hole.

Black holes are formed in space, for example, when stars die. In a shining star like our sun, two forces are at work: the outward pressure and the inward pressure. The pressure to the outside arises from the ongoing nuclear fusion, during which hydrogen atomic nuclei fuse to form helium nuclei. This creates an incredibly large amount of energy that generates heat and light and is radiated outside. The sun's gravity counteracts this outward pressure - an equilibrium is created. But stars have a defined lifespan, at some point they run out of fuel.

"And then gravity is still there. Then the thing collapses and can collapse so that a black hole is created in the center."

Professor Reinhard Genzel, astrophysicist, Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching

Einstein predicted black holes.

Nobody knows what such a black hole looks like, nobody will ever travel there and report on their experience. Theoretical physicists try to calculate black holes and their experimental colleagues look for them with telescopes. Albert Einstein already predicted in his theory of relativity that there must be black holes. The term "black hole" first appeared in a scientific publication in 1964, and in 1971 researchers discovered the first candidate for it, Cyngnus X-1, about 6,100 light years away from us.

Calculation of black holes

There is a black hole in the center of most galaxies, including the Milky Way. The more massive the galaxy, the more massive the black hole. Our black hole is roughly four million times the mass of the sun. But there are even heavier chunks, up to 10 billion solar masses have already been measured.

Black holes are invisible

Black holes can only be detected indirectly, through their gravitational effects.

Because the light disappears in black holes, they cannot be seen with a normal optical telescope. What can be observed is the gravitational effect of a black hole: depending on how the planets and stars move around a potential black hole, how the light is deflected from it, you can calculate its mass.

The first photo of a black hole

But in May 2019 a black hole was photographed for the first time. However, not in the optical range of light, ie the "normally" visible. Radio telescopes took a picture that at least shows the edge of the black hole: its "event horizon", behind which everything is swallowed up.

  • The hunt for black holes: October 22, 2019, 9.45 p.m., ARD-alpha.
  • Sherlock Holmes and the black hole: April 9, 2019, 6:05 p.m., IQ - Science and Research, Bavaria 2
  • What are black holes? ": 27.09.2018, 1.30 a.m., alpha-centauri, ARD-alpha.
  • "Are black holes rotating?": 08/24/2018, 7.15 p.m., alpha-centauri, ARD-alpha.
  • "Do black holes eat stars? ": August 22, 2018, 7.15 p.m., alpha-centauri, ARD-alpha.
  • "Black Holes - Riddles of the Universe": 14.06.2018, 9 p.m., ARD-alpha.
  • "Black holes, dark matter": 01.06.2018, 6:05 p.m., IQ, Bavaria 2.
  • "Are black holes merging?": April 8th, 2018, 4.55 a.m., alpha-centauri, ARD-alpha.
  • "Black holes - wolverines in the middle of the galaxies": May 23, 2014, 9:05 a.m., radioWissen, Bavaria 2.