When we look up to the skies, we know that somewhere there, it’s a mystery that hides behind the darkness. For centuries, black holes have fascinated our minds, even when we didn’t know if they existed. The impenetrable maelstrom from where not even light could escape has made humans imagination fly and wonder… What’s that mystery behind the darkness?
But are these holes as we’ve pictured them all along? Well, it’s the complete opposite!
So, if black holes are not holes, what are they?
Black holes are bodies with massive gravitational forces. Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicted them in the first half of the 20th Century. They consist of a singularity or center of mass, which inflicts the gravitational force and no one has ever seen. And an event horizon, that deadly line from where nothing escapes – not even light, yes, you know! -.
The reason why scientists call them “holes” is because of their gravity force. It’s strong enough to catch the light, can also bend the fabric of time-spice, giving the sensation of falling.
Even though they’ve been proposed by the renowned physicist, it was not until 60 years after that, that astronomers spotted the first real black hole.
From there, we’ve learned some things about these massive objects, but have never been able to see them directly. We only know the information we get from the light movements around them.
One of the first things we’ve learned is how these colossal voids are born, and it couldn’t be more epic!
The mystery behind the darkness rises from the ashes of dead stars
The death of a star, that moment when it runs out of fuel and collides onto itself until forming a new space object might be, precisely, the birth of a black hole. However, there’s a specific condition that applies to these formations, as only massive stars can become black holes.
To refer, we’ll take the mass of the sun. When a star is the size of the sun – which is a mid-size star – or smaller, they won’t become black holes. They will either become a cold white dwarf or a carbonized black dwarf.
Any star three times bigger than the sun may be responsible for the creation of a new black hole. When these massive stars are about to die, they explode in the last bright-scream. Then it gives birth to the vacuum mass that engulfs light: the black hole. Star clusters and galaxies may also collide and create these ebony monsters.
But stars can be as much as billions times bigger than the sun, do they create the same type of abyssal formations? Of course not!
The three types of black holes
Depending on the size of the star that collides, it may give birth to different types of black holes. In the beginning, scientists believed that these massive formations could come only in two types. However, today we know that there are actually three types or size of black holes:
- Supermassive black holes: these are the dark monsters we all fear so much, especially since we all saw Interstellar. They’re believed to inhabit the center of every single galaxy in the universe. The reason why they’re called supermassive is that the might be billion times the size of the sun. The Milky Way has its own at the center, called Sagittarius.
- Stellar-mass holes: these holes are known as the little siblings of the family. They are generally orbiting their big brothers’ galaxies until they grow enough themselves. They may be from three suns to the biggest one discovered 13 years ago, of 24 suns.
- Medium black holes: recently theorized, they’ve been elusive to astronomers’ eyes. There has been only one sighting of one of these black holes, even when they should be easier to spot. These formations surround the 1,000-100,000 sun masses and may lead scientists to understand the evolution of smaller black holes.
There’s still too much to know about this magnificent mystery behind the darkness, and right now everything is happening! Colliding supermassive black holes, the closest one to earth, the first picture ever. Black holes’ discoveries seem to become more common. Hopefully, we’ll be privileged enough to see humanity unraveling what’s on the other side of the event horizon!