Black holes are one of the most mysterious phenomena in existence and even though we have come a long way since their discovery, we still have a lot to learn about black holes.
Although there are plenty of questions that still surround these amazing regions of space, there are many that we have the answer for. So – can a black hole fill up?
Today we are going to be diving into black holes, what they are, and is it possible for one to fill up completely? Take a look below to learn more about black holes!
What Are Black Holes?
Contrary to their names, black holes are not actually holes.
The term ‘black holes’ refers to a region of space where gravity is so strong that nothing – not even light – can escape its pull.
Black holes were first predicted by Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity in 1916. He proposed that when a large star dies, it leaves behind a dense core remnant.
If this core’s mass is more than three times the mass of the sun, then the force of its gravity overpowers all over forces and produces a black hole.
There are different types of black holes – stellar, intermediate, supermassive.
Each type varies by size and mass as each black hole draws more matter towards itself and increases its mass.
Stellar black holes are the ones first theorized by Einstein as they are usually 3 to 10 times the mass of our sun.
Then you have intermediate black holes that are 100 to 1000 times the mass of our sun.
Finally, the largest form of black holes in the supermassive black holes are millions or even billions of times the mass of our sun!
These numbers are off the scale and are usually tricky for us to wrap our heads around. Supermassive black holes are one of the heaviest objects that we know about.
They are so large that astronomers now believe that there is a supermassive black hole at the center of nearly all large galaxies – including our very own Milky Way!
So really, a black hole is the core of a dead star that has such a huge mass that it pulls everything around it.
They are not vortexes or wormholes in space – they are an object that creates a region devoid of any matter or mass other than its own.
So Then Why Are Black Holes Called ‘Black Holes’?
Nothing escapes a black hole’s gravitational pull – not even lightwaves.
This is where black holes get their name.
Light cannot escape a black hole, thus we cannot physically observe a black hole with our eyes.
We see because light reflects from objects and into our eyes, but because the light that typically bounces off objects and into our eyes never gets to bounce off a black hole, we cannot physically see a black hole.
This leaves a literal ‘black hole’ in our vision.
So, scientists cannot observe black holes directly through a telescope – not even ones that detect x-rays or other forms of electromagnetic radiation other than light.
However, we know that black holes exist because we can study their effect on nearby matter.
For example, black holes that pass by other stars will literally tear them apart, pulling the star towards itself.
Black holes draw other matter inwards, meaning that we can observe their destruction and know that they are there.
Can Black Holes Fill Up?
No – black holes cannot fill up because they are not actually holes and the complete opposite of empty space.
Black holes are basically round cores that exist in space, pulling matter towards its body using its huge gravitational force.
They continually grow in size and mass and will pull anything towards it that gets close enough – stars, clouds, even other black holes.
They grow and grow, increasing in mass, until they have pulled everything in reach towards it.
This does not mean that they will eventually stop pulling matter towards themselves and give up; if something passes by that is close enough to get pulled in, then the black hole will pull it in.
And so, as far as we know, black holes cannot ‘fill up’. They are not outer space’s version of a trash can. Instead, black holes act like super magnets that nothing can escape.
Are Black Holes Indestructible?
All things come to an end eventually, and the same goes for black holes.
Stephen Hawking once theorized in 1974 that black holes shrink by losing tiny amounts of their mass through ‘Hawking radiation.
Hawking proposed that because space is not really a vacuum but a sea of particles that pop in and out of existence.
Hawking suggested that if two particles pop into existence near a black hole, one will be drawn towards the black hole while the other pings off into space. The particle that falls towards the back hole becomes negative energy and subtracts from the black hole’s mass.
This means that black holes are constantly emitting thermal radiation (now known as Hawking radiation), losing a very small amount each time this process with the particles happens.
And so, black holes will eventually lose more mass than they gain and will eventually, after a very long time, start to shrink.
They will continue to lose mass until they eventually dissolve and no longer exist. This process is now called black hole evaporation.
However, this effect is so small that it has not been measured and we still have a lot to learn about Hawking radiation – but it seems that black holes do eventually disappear all by themselves so long as they emit more mass than they are drawing in with their gravitational force.
Should I Be Scared Of Black Holes?
Don’t worry – despite their power and force, black holes do not go around space destroying everything in their path.
Thankfully, we don’t have to ever worry about waking up to the news that Earth is about to be eaten by a black hole. There is no black hole close enough to Earth for us to be pulled towards one.
Also, our sun will never turn into a black hole.
The sun is too small to ever become one, so once our sun uses up all of its hydrogens, it will become a red giant and start to shed its outer core.
Eventually, over time, our sun will shrink into a white dwarf and all its outer material will leave behind a planetary nebula.
The sun will never go supernova, and will not use up all its hydrogen for billions of years yet!
Overall, black holes are fascinating phenomena that occur in outer space and we are constantly learning new things about them.
But they are definitely not holes, despite what their name suggests, and so they cannot fill up.
Instead, black holes draw more and more mass from other stellar objects that surround them until they cannot reach anything more.
Eventually, they will emit more mass through radiation known as Hawking radiation than they draw in. They slowly evaporate over time, shrinking to nothing as they lose more and more mass.
While we are still learning about ways to destroy black holes, we will probably never need to do such a thing as black holes pose no threat to us on Earth. They are too far away to affect us, and our sun is too small to turn into one!
And so, we can appreciate their immense power from a safe distance.
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