by CRYSTAL ROSENE
It is a massive undertaking to explain black holes correctly, especially in five hundred words! There is no denying that this is one aspect of the cosmos that nearly everyone is somewhat familiar with, even if it’s only due to science fiction. Because black holes are so complex, they become an easy subject from which urban myths spawn. So, consider this article a myth de-bunker for black holes!
- Myth: Black holes are wormholes.
The gravitational effects of black holes sharply curve the fabric of spacetime around them, much like a bowling ball depresses a foam mattress. However, the ‘well’ created by a black hole is infinitely deep, which causes many to think that a black hole could curve around spacetime and lead you to another part of our universe. This is the idea of a wormhole, but sadly, it is just a myth. The intense gravity of black holes wouldn’t allow for wormholes to exist, as they would collapse the instant they form. The only way to travel through a wormhole successfully would be to travel faster than the speed of light, which is not possible.
- Myth: Black holes roam around space sucking up everything in their paths.
When most people think of black holes, this is what they picture: some massive vacuum cleaner of doom that sucks up everything around it, and someday Earth will ultimately succumb to this unfortunate end. Wrong. While black holes have immense gravity, they operate in much the same way as regular stars, at least from a distance. Across the event horizon, however, the gravity is so strong that you would need to travel faster than the speed of light to escape, which is impossible. But if a body is far enough away, it would simply orbit the black hole, much as it would another star.
- Myth: You can see a black hole.
Black holes are aptly named, as they are objects in space from which light cannot escape. As an extremely massive dying star compresses, Einstein’s general relativity predicts that the space surrounding the star will curve so much, it will just fold back in on itself. This means that if a photon is travelling outwards from the black hole, it cannot leave; instead, it will end up in orbit. Therefore, nothing can escape as nothing travels faster than light.
- Myth: Our sun will turn into a black hole.
It’s true that black holes are formed from dying stars. But, only select stars have the necessary characteristics for this to happen. Most massive stars end up as white dwarfs, and some that are even more massive may become neutron stars. But occasionally, stars that are larger could be too massive to remain stable as neutron stars, and may then become black holes. But this only occurs in stars about 2 to 3 times the mass of our sun, so we have nothing to worry about.