First-ever photo of a black hole will be released soon

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The existence of black holes has been known since 1916 when Karl Schwarzschild found the first modern solution of general relativity that would characterise a black hole.

Now, more than a century later, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) will take a picture of Sagittarius A’s event horizon, the famous “point of no return.” No light, matter or information can escape once it crosses the event market.

Understanding black holes

Scientists hope that the new images and information collected from the EHT will help them better understand the makeup of a black hole. They are hoping to observe the intense gravitational forces in action.

If all goes according to plan, this discovery will mean that Einstein’s theory of relativity will need to be updated. According to Universe Today, black holes are, in essence, a star’s corpse:

“When a very massive star burns through all of its fuel, it collapses into an extremely dense point or singularity. The black hole has an incredibly powerful gravitational pull, which pulls gas and dust towards it. Once every 10 000 years or so, Sagittarius A even consumes a star.”

And the Super-Massive Black Hole (SMBH) is, well, massive. It has a mass approximately four million times greater than our Sun.

However, compared to other SMBH’s, it’s tiny. The EHT is monitoring an SMBH with a mass approximately seven billion times greater than our Sun.

While we wait for this scientific breakthrough, let’s take a moment to dispell six common myths about this fascinating phenomenon.

Popular myths

Our sun will turn into a black hole one day

Not quite, no. Our sun is too small for such grand endeavours. When our Sun reaches the end of its lifetime – in around six billion years – it will become a red giant with a diameter reaching Earth’s orbit.

Or rather, Earth’s former orbit. Before our Sun even reaches that stage, Earth will be long gone. Our oceans boiled away and solar radiation will have blasted away the hydrogen from water.

Eventually, the Sun will discard its outer gaseous shield, leaving behind a white dwarf star with a white-hot stellar core. Only a star with a mass ten times more massive than our sun will turn into a black hole when it ‘dies.’

Black holes will eventually suck up everything in the Universe

Thankfully, no. Only things in close proximity to a singularity are at danger of being dragged over the event horizon.

According to Dr Amanda Bauer, an astronomer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory, Earth would not even notice the gravitational change if our Sun did somehow turn into a black hole.

“Think about what would happen to Earth; the Sun would still have the same mass if it were a black hole instead of a star. Earth also still has the same mass and still be the same 150 million kilometres away from it, and gravitationally speaking the only things that matter are your mass and how far away you are.”

Think of it like this: we have an SMBH at the centre of our galaxy at this very moment. We, on Earth, are still safe. “There are hundreds of billions of stars between us and that black hole.” She adds:

“Gravitationally we don’t care what it is. You have to be very close to the black hole to get sucked in.”

Singularities are wormholes to another place or time

It is possible, but there is this thing called spaghettification. It is the process by which an object would be stretched and ripped apart by gravitational forces when crossing over the event horizon of a black hole. In theory, at least.

That means that if a black hole could tie you to another point in the universe, you could potentially “pop out of a white hole on the other side”. However, Dr Bauer said, “these are very delicate situations.”

“Mathematically it’s possible, but it’s not very likely. We are never going to be able to measure this scientifically because if we send something into a black hole, we could not get a signal out to tell us what’s happening. The signal will travel at the speed of light, and that’s not fast enough to escape the gravity of a black hole.”

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will create singularities

Yes, the Large Hadron Collider was able to prove the existence of the Higgs boson. But no, it is not able to create tiny black holes. There are no stars massive enough in our local part of the galaxy to become black holes.

Even if you could somehow harness all the mass of all the objects in our solar system, you’d still be far short of the amount needed to make an SMBH.

As for microscopic black holes, scientists cannot even say with certainty that they exist. The collisions that occur at the LHC are the sort of collisions that happen in nature all the time.

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