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Black Holes

Posted by air_lifter Sunday, April 11, 2010


What is a black hole ?
In simple words, a black hole is a strange astronomical body which is formed when a massive star dies. As the star dies, the nuclear fusion reactions stop because the fuel for these reactions gets burned up. At the same time, the star's gravity pulls material inward and compresses the core. As the core compresses, it heats up and eventually creates a supernova explosion in which the material and radiation blasts out into space. What remains is the highly compressed and extremely massive core.

According to the general theory of relativity, a black hole is a region of space from which nothing, including light, can escape. It is the result of the deformation of space-time caused by a very compact mass. In other words, a black hole is a region of space that has so much mass concentrated in it that there is no way for a nearby object to escape its gravitational pull.
Black hole is something which has immense gravity and thus nothing can pass through it.
Why not even light can pass through a black hole?
Suppose that you are standing on the surface of the earth. You throw a rock straight up into the air. Assuming you don't throw it too hard, it will rise for a while, but eventually the acceleration due to the planet's gravity will make it start to fall down again. If you threw the rock hard enough, though, you could make it escape the planet's gravity entirely. It would keep on rising forever. The speed with which you need to throw the rock in order that it just barely escapes the planet's gravity is called the "escape velocity". As one would expect, the escape velocity depends on the mass of the planet: if the planet is extremely massive, then its gravity is very strong, and the escape velocity is high. A lighter planet would have a smaller escape velocity. The Earth's escape velocity is 11.2 km per second (about 25000 mph), while the Moon's is only 2.4 km per second (about 5300 mph).

Now imagine an object with such an enormous concentration of mass in such a small radius that its escape velocity was greater than the velocity of light. Then, since nothing can go faster than light, nothing can escape the object's gravitational field. Even a beam of light would be pulled back by gravity and would be unable to escape.

Even Horizon and the Singularity of a black hole
In general relativity, gravity is a manifestation of the curvature of space-time. Massive objects distort space and time, so that the usual rules of geometry don't apply anymore. Near a black hole, this distortion of space is extremely severe and causes black holes to have some very strange properties. In particular, a black hole has something called an 'event horizon'. This is a spherical surface that marks the boundary of the black hole. You can pass in through the horizon, but you can't get back out. In fact, once you've crossed the horizon, you're doomed to move inexorably closer and closer to the 'singularity' at the centre of the black hole.

You can think of the horizon as the place where the escape velocity equals the velocity of light. Outside of the horizon, the escape velocity is less than the speed of light, so if you fire your rockets hard enough, you can give yourself enough energy to get away. But if you find yourself inside the horizon, then no matter how powerful your rockets are, you can't escape.

The horizon has some very strange geometrical properties. Far away from the black hole, the horizon seems to be a static, unmoving spherical surface. But once you get close to the horizon, you realize that it has a very large velocity. In fact, it is moving outward at the speed of light. That explains why it is easy to cross the horizon in the inward direction, but impossible to get back out. Since the horizon is moving out at the speed of light, in order to escape back across it, you would have to travel faster than light which is impossibly practically as well as theoretically.

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