The Abyss in Space, Pt 2

After a month's worth of research on the puzzling subject for me, that is black holes, I have learned so much, and here's all that I've learned:

A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can't escape. Black holes tend to occur when a star is dying. The gravity is so strong in black holes because it's a gravitational collapse of something massive, usually a star, so the matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. Because no light can get out, people can't see black holes. However, space telescopes like Hubble, equipped with special tools, can help find black holes.

Black Hole Sizes Black holes can be big or small. Scientists think the smallest black holes are as small as just one atom. These black holes are very tiny but have the mass of a large mountain.

One type of black hole is called a stellar black hole. The mass of these black holes can be up to 20 times more than the sun's mass. There may be many, many stellar black holes in the Milky Way.

Another type of black hole and the largest of the black holes are called supermassive black holes. "These black holes have masses that are more than 1 million suns together," wrote Heather Smith at NASA. "Scientists have found proof that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its center." The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way is called Sagittarius A. Its mass is equal to about 4 million suns and could hold a few million Earths inside! It's very interesting how small we really are when you start to look at things beyond the light blue sky above us.

How Do Black Holes Form? Scientists believe that the smallest black holes formed when the universe began. Stellar black holes are made when the center of a very big star falls in upon itself, or collapses (That's how it got its name). Stars become larger and larger as they age until the star becomes a red giant. During the red giant phase, a star's core collapses and burns helium (which is what stars are mostly made of) into carbon. After about 100 million years, the helium runs out, and the star turns into a red supergiant. Black holes tend to form at this stage. When this happens, it causes a supernova. A supernova is an exploding star that blasts part of the star into space. Scientists think the supermassive black holes in the middle of galaxies were made at the same time as the galaxy they are in. So black holes have been there since the beginning of time, and they come primarily from stars. When the light of the sun fades, the darkness of the black hole comes into play.

If Black Holes Are "Black," How Do Scientists Know They Are There? A black hole can't be seen because strong gravity pulls all of the light into the middle of the black hole. However, with the help of space telescopes like Hubble, scientists can see how strong gravity affects the stars and gas around the black hole. Scientists can study stars to find out if they are flying around, or orbiting, a black hole. Because of its immense gravitational pull and attraction, black holes mirror stars, which is why a supermassive black hole is at the center of each galaxy, having all the other solar systems, particles, and nebulas orbiting the center.

Could a Black Hole Destroy Earth? Black holes don't go around in space eating stars, moons, and planets. Earth won't fall into a black hole because no black hole is close enough to the solar system for Earth to do that. Our Sun has to be near death for a black hole to come near Earth, and that isn't happening anytime soon. Even if a black hole the same mass as the sun were to take the place of the sun, Earth still wouldn't fall in. The black hole would have the same gravity as the sun. Earth and the other planets would orbit the black hole as they orbit the sun now. However, Earth wouldn't exactly be supporting life anymore so we would be doomed anyway. Luckily that can't happen.

And that's a wrap on what I learned this month on black holes. There are many questions I still have, mostly that I know that no one has the answer to. What happens if you go near a black hole? What's inside a black hole? Is there possibly a black hole opposite? A light hole? Or is that just a star?

I'll keep asking and learn as much as I can about black holes. Let me know below if you have any questions that I didn't cover, and if I can gather enough questions, I'll do a part three. Until then, it's your space wonderer signing off...

- Paschal N


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