Black hole mysteries

Scientists are just getting to know the black holes that help anchor our cosmos

By Stephen Ornes, 13:00 PM May 29, 2013

This illustration shows a black hole pulling in gas from a star that has wandered too close. Credit: NASA E/PO, Sonoma State University, Aurore Simonnet

Strrrretch…the gravitational pull of a stellar-mass black hole could lead to spaghettification. This illustration shows how if you fell feet-first toward a black hole, its gravitational attraction would stretch you out like a noodle. Credit: Cosmocurio/wikipedia

Astronomers have recently found black holes so big they fall into an entirely new category: ultramassive. This image shows the center of the galaxy cluster PKS 0745-19. The ultramassive black hole at its center produces outbursts that create cavities in the clouds of hot gas, shown in purple, that surround it. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Stanford/Hlavacek-Larrondo, J. et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA

 The heart of a galaxy called NGC 1277 contains a black hole recently discovered to be far larger than expected. If this black hole were at the center of our solar system, its event horizon would extend 11 times farther than Neptune's orbit. Credit: D. Benningfield/K. Gebhardt/StarDate


The first rule for anyone dealing with a black hole is, of course, don’t get too close. But say you do. Then you’re in for quite a trip — a one-way trip — because there is no coming back once you fall into a black hole.


A black hole isn't actually a hole. If anything, it's the opposite. A black hole is a place in space containing a lot of stuff packed very closely together. It has accumulated so much mass — and therefore gravity — that nothing can escape it, not even light.


And if light can...

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