Black Holes haunts our universe. Dark centers of gravity that swallow everything in their path what would we see if we got close and fell past the point of no return into another world of twisted space and time. What secrets can we learnt about the universe on a journey to the center of a monster “Black Hole”? Imagine traveling to the very center of our galaxy 26,000 light years away and finding a vantage point on the night sky We would see millions of stars and on the horizon a strange dark sphere rising; it’s a black hole. An object so dense nothing can escape its gravitational pull not even light. This monster is ten times the size of our sun; yet millions of times heavier. It’s not the only one out there in nearly every large galaxy astronomers have found evidence of black holes millions even billions of times the mass of the sun. How did they form and how did they get so large? In the search for answers we are beginning to glimpse the forces that shape the stars, planets even life and now by tracing The Life Cycle of Black Holes.
Scientists are finding clues to the fate that awaits our galaxy and the universe at large but how do we study something that by nature evades detection. Sometimes the universe let’s us in on its most mysterious workings. March 19, 2008 astronomers around the world receive an alert sent from an orbiting observatory called Swift, it had recorded a flash of gamma radiation (A kind of ultra high energy light that is the signature of a cataclysmic event). Swift automatically relayed the information down to earth and within seconds. Robotic telescopes in North and South America turn their gaze on the rising light. Astronomers dial into the data to see how bright and powerful the flash had become. Meanwhile, at giant observatories in Chile and in Texas they zero in on it using specialized instruments to split the light into all its different wavelengths that tells them how far the light had traveled to reach earth. What they find is that it had come from seven and a half billion light years away halfway across the visible universe. Tom Vestrand heads a robotic telescope project at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. He’s been tracking high-energy gamma-ray bursts for over a decade and has never seen anything like this. It was the most luminous thing ever detected by mankind traditionally think of astronomy as something that happens very slowly but this was a thing that had been traveling to us for 7.5 billion years arrived here and for 30 seconds it was astonishingly bright amazingly bright. Minutes later even still showing signs of saturation it was so bright in fact that it was visible to the naked eye putting together evidence from ground and space telescopes.
Astronomers determined that the flash was a narrow but intense beam of light and that most likely it broadcast the birth of a black Hole. This singular moment is the end point of a violent chain of events in the core of a large star. All stars shine by burning light elements like Hydrogen in the largest ones intense heat fuses these elements into heavier ones like Carbon, Silicon and finally iron like hot air in a balloon heat and light from these nuclear fires creates an outward pressure that prevents the star’s massive outer layers from collapsing inward. Eventually, that fuel runs out the energy flows out through the star off into space. It can’t go on forever when the fuel runs out the star starts to shrink and when that iron core builds up to about 1.4 times the mass of the sun it can no longer hold itself up against the pressure and it will collapse in some cases. As matter slams into the star’s core the impact creates a powerful shock wave that races back out and literally blows the star apart. Our galaxy is littered with the scattered remains of these supernova as shown in images like these from the Hubble Space Telescope but what happens to the collapsed core of these dead stars. When a large star implodes, its weight is enough to squash all the atoms in its core down to their nuclei the result an ultra dense ember called a Neutron Star. The density of a neutron star something like taking a mountain and crushing it down to the size of a marble. About so big neutrons can withstand incredible pressures but if enough matter falls onto them beyond a critical threshold they can be crushed down to nothing. When that happens a black hole is born. A black hole is gravity taken to the extreme; its mass is literally packed into a point and enshrouded within a dark sphere called the Event Horizon. That sphere is the point of no return any gas stars or planets that fall in disappear forever. A black hole is a region of space and time which is both black and empty. It’s black because light can’t escape from it gravity pulls the light back but it’s empty because the object or system that collapsed to form format in the first place has shriveled away to nothing. The common idea that black hole is just made of very compacted matter it’s wrong it’s just simply wrong. It may have been created from very compacted matter but the matter is gone. It’s been completely destroyed it no longer exists and yet it leaves behind a powerful legacy. It’s gravity according to Albert Einstein gravity is not just the attractive force of planets and suns.
It’s a warping of space and time what scientists call space-time in the presence of massive objects. A planet for example goes into orbit when it’s caught in the warped space surrounding a star like a ball spinning around a roulette wheel with the mass of a star quashed down to a point. A black hole is a deep puncture in space-time when a black hole is born the energy gets transformed from the energy of the matter to the energy of warp space-time. So it’s a transformation of the form of the energy from one to another but the energy is still conserved what you’re left behind with is warp space-time that has a huge amount of energy in it. With that energy a black hole can affect its environment in profound ways. On our planet earth we know gravity is the force that brings everything down the impact releases energy a crash a thud a shatter. When matter falls toward a black hole the energy released can reach astronomical proportions when we look at how they affect the rest of the universe we look at what happens around them what happens when stuff exploits this huge gravitational potential this huge gravitational hole that they form and how that is exploited to make energy. Such energy emissions are part of a growing body of evidence that black holes famous for hiding in the dark have a history of outbursts that have reached across the cosmos and shaped the universe we know. Scientists are following this energy like a trail of clues leading ever closer to the black hole’s dark heart. Astronomers once saw black holes as rare and exotic in a universe seemingly dominated by stars and galaxies. A radically new view has emerged from surveys of galaxies and black holes stretching deep into the universe giant black holes lurk in the dust lanes and swirling gas clouds at the centers of nearly every large galaxy. What’s more the larger the galaxy the larger the black hole that’s a clue that they must have evolved hand in hand each shaping the life story of the other.