There’s a fascination with the idea of a region of space having a gravitational pull so strong, nothing can escape its deadly grasp, not even a sliver of light.
Well, not quite. In fact, much of what we think we know about black holes turn out to be myths.
Black hole Myth 1 – All black holes are black.
|black hole event horizon image|
As this photograph from the Event Horizon telescope demonstrated, light can be detected near a black hole’s event horizon.
This is the boundary between normal space and the space affected by the black hole's gravity, from which no escape is possible.
Part of this light comes from the black hole’s accretion disk, a flat, pancake like structure composed of dust, gas and other debris.
Friction constantly moves the disk’s material inward toward the event horizon. Light also comes from jet streams which propel matter outward along the disk’s north and south poles.
Black hole Myth 2: All black holes are about the same size, types of black holes.
|How big is a black hole?|
Black holes actually come in several different sizes which are defined by their mass. Small black holes are usually the result of a relatively short and violent collapse of a star.
Recent work suggests that Intermediate black holes are found in the nuclei of some active galaxies. Super massive black holes on the other hand, are found at the center of nearly every galaxy.
There’s a direct relationship between the beginning of super massive black holes and the beginning of their corresponding galaxy.
This strongly suggests the two were born about the same time and slowly grew in size together over billions of years.
Myth 3: If you get within a few thousand miles of a black hole, its super gravity will pull you into its center.
|How does gravity work in a black hole?|
So imagine if we replaced our sun with a black hole of the same mass. All of the planets would continue to revolve around it, at exactly the same speed and distance as they do now.
|Stephen Hawking’s contributions|
It turns out that radiation can escape from a black hole. One of Stephen Hawking’s contributions was a theory that a black hole is not so dense in a quantum mechanical sense.
Myth 4: Once inside a black hole, nothing ever comes out.
The slow leak of what’s now known as Hawking radiation would, over time, cause the black hole to simply evaporate.
The image from the Event Horizon telescope confirmed what Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicted over 100 years ago, that a black hole’s form is that of a perfect circle.
And as scientists learn even more about the properties of this gigantic cosmic mystery we call a black hole, they’ll be able to puncture even more myths.
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