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Black Holes - Windows to the Universe

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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
A spiral-shaped disk of dust fueling a massive black hole in the center of the galaxy NGC 4261.
Click on image for full size
L. Ferrarese (Johns Hopkins University) and NASA.

Black Holes

No one is sure that Black Holes really exist, but most scientists think they do. They are very hard to see, because they are black and so is space. They are black because their gravity is so strong that not even light can escape them.

Black Holes can form from a supernova explosion. The collapse of a star's surface inward causes the explosion. And it also makes a black hole. But only if the star was big enough. It takes a pretty big star to make a Black Hole.

Some astronomers believe that they have seen Black Holes indirectly. They think that they can see Black Holes gobbling up stars that got too close to them. They also think that most galaxies may have a giant Black Holes in their centers.

What would it be like to enter a black hole? Not fun. First, as you approach the black hole the difference in gravity's pull on your head compared to your feet would rip you apart. But suppose you survived that. Once you entered the Black Hole you cannot return, remember not even light gets away from a Black Hole. In the end the Black Hole would crush you out of existence. So I wouldn't try it if I were you.

Last modified May 6, 2008 by Randy Russell.

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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF