The Absolute Force of Gravity: Black Holes

Are we ready for real life interstellar?


For centuries now scientists were fascinated by massive and dense objects in space they can’t really see. In 1783, John Mitchell began thinking about light particles and how they are affected by gravitational pull. This idea wasn’t developed much until the 20th century. With Einstein’s theory of general relativity and Schwarzschild radius,the idea about how black holes are conceived was coming together. It wasn’t until 1967 that the term was coined by the physicist John Wheeler.

When we think about black holes, it often sounds like a large amount of empty space, but it’s anything but that, really. In theory, anything can become black hole if shrunk enough. The thing that makes black holes so powerful is that that a huge amount of space matter is packed in a tiny area. The results you get are impressive – the gravitational field becomes so strong that nothing, not even light can escape. Black holes are considered a product of a gravitational collapse of heavy objects such as stars. They grow constantly by swallowing gasses or interstellar dust, or they can even merge with other objects like stars or black holes.

Black holes come in different shapes and sizes, but mostly there are three different types of black holes – primordial black holes, small as atom but strong as a mountain. The second and most common type is a stellar black hole, and the third and largest – super-massive black holes. Recent discoveries showed that there is one “local” super-massive black hole located in our galaxy in a region known as Sagittarius A*. Fortunately, it is said that it’s pretty far away from us so we don’t have to worry… yet.


In theory, you get into a black hole by getting to so-called “point of no return”, or event horizon. The idea is that if you are far away from the black hole, a particle can move in any direction, and it’s only restriction is the speed of light, the closer you get,space-time starts deforming, or time starts running slower and the gravitational pull becomes stronger. Once you step into the event horizon, the particles get pulled into the center of the black hole, and there is no way out.

There are different theories with what happens with you once you are in black hole; the most popular one is called Spaghettification. Over the years we heard about many theories. For most of them we owe to scientist Stephen Hawking. One of the theories is that in the black hole there is firewall so basically you don’t get stretched like spaghetti, but you get burnt up. In 1970 this scientist had another theory, which was that a black hole evaporates over a vast period of time. But the most interesting theory is a more recent one – black holes are wormholes or tunnels that allow interstellar travel; Of course there are many questions that stand open about this theory, but besides the fact that we can’t do it yet, the question really is – is it a one way ticket or we get a full round trip?

There are many fun discoveries we’ve made about black holes throughout the years, such as that black holes aren’t really black, but they emit so-called Hawking radiation.

The first black hole ever discovered and named was Cygnus x – 1, discovered in 1964. And it is one of the most studied astronomical objects in its class. To put things into perspective, we can look at the SAGE0536AGN, a galaxy spotted by NASA’s Spitzer telescope, where a black hole lies which is 350 million times the mass of the Sun.

One of the most fascinating things about black holes for this speck of dust in the universe is that there remains a theoretical possibility that black holes “spit” matter back into space, transforming this matter into stars or even maybe new planets! According to the mathematician George Haller, black holes work in the same manner, as do whirlpools on our Earth. Does that mean that whirlpools are tiny black holes that remember the time that once was? According to him, the same mathematical equation is used for both phenomena.

When I think about black holes I can believe in anything really, because I’m not a scientist. But I would sure like that the theory about interstellar traveling is true; Then I could fasten my seat-belt and get ready for the bumpy road to a place where the time is running slow.

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I am a security policy expert, working as the Fundraising Coordinator at the Belgrade Security Forum. I have been in love with computer games and writing since I was a kid, when I started writing my first sci-fi short stories about aliens. I am a war nerd, a gun nut and a pacifist. Go figure.

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