Yep, it’s time for another edition of Tyler’s Random Science Topics:
(Yes, Faith, I’m finally done)
Last month we explored what black holes consist of and the weird things they do to space time nearby. Today, we will be taking a trip inside a black hole to see what it would be like to fall into one. We will also have an observer outside the event horizon watching as this unlucky traveler falls inward to their inevitable doom.
Firstly, I would like to set the record straight on what you think a black hole would look like. Simply put, it would look like nothing; it would only stand out as a circular region of space with no light blocking all nebular gas or starlight from view. This is because no light is reflected or radiated beyond the event horizon as the gravity is so strong that light is trapped and gets sucked inward toward the singularity (the location in a black hole where mass becomes infinite.) Also, its spherical…..it does not resemble a wormhole pit that many movies and TV shows have portrayed. TV probably used this physical representational analogy to make it easier to understand to viewers. But in fact, black holes are spherical in all 4 dimensions like most massive objects in space that contain significant amounts of mass (Planets, Stars, etc).
This is what black hole would look like to an outside observer.
This looks more like a wormhole and is representation of a gravity well in space time.
Now that I have that off my chest, let’s begin our trip into a black hole, but first I need to set the stage. We arrive well away from a ‘supermassive’ black hole like the one at the center of our galaxy to safely enter into an easily to depart orbit of a black hole (you can orbit a black hole cause it has mass, this does not mean you will be sucked in, cause if we orbit far enough out and with enough momentum we will remain in orbit as long as we maintain orbit velocity.) From here we will set up our observational post which will not ever get any closer to the black hole.
A member of our crew has decided to venture into the black hole and dons a spacesuit with and jetpack and leaves the safety of our observation ship. The doomed space adventurer then sets their course right for the center of the black hole. As the adventurer get closer to what we call the ‘event horizon’, time and space becomes more and more warped and a clock attached the adventurer’s space suit begins to slow down from our perspective in the observation ship as time is beginning to warp comparatively to ours. Also, from our perspective the adventurer is starting to slow down and also becoming more and more ‘red-shifted’, because light is becoming more and more bent and warped as it becomes affected by the black hole’s immense gravity stretching the light that is reflected back.
But from the adventurer’s perspective nothing has changed. To the adventurer has continued to approach the black hole at the same speed and the observation ship still appears to be the same color visually to the adventurer. This is because light is unaffected in his current frame of inertia compared to the ship relative to the speed of light falling inward with the adventurer. At this point, it’s probably a good time to point out that our adventurer isn’t just wearing any sort of spacesuit that we know by today’s standards. This spacesuit and jetpack are made of “unobtanium”…..why is that important? Because around the black hole you have super-heated material that is orbiting the black hole at great velocity and as it gets closer and closer to the black hole it becomes torn apart releasing massive amounts of energy. This energy is released in many forms including thermal and radiation energy including massive amounts of Gamma Radiation (the most dangerous form of radioactivity) which in the dosage around the black hole would kill an unprotected adventurer in mare milliseconds, but this spacesuit, with its unobtanium armor, is resistant to all forms of radiation, heat or radioactivity. It also has almost infinite strength allowing the adventurer to get closer and closer to the center of a black hole.
Just as the adventurer crosses the event horizon (the point that even light can’t escape), we only see a red blob as the adventurer has become severely red-shifted and slowly fades from sight. This is because no light is reflected as once he crosses this point, no light can escape, so no further light information from the adventurer’s person can reach us. One interesting thing to note is we can still send him information, be it radio or light information. He can still see our ship and he can still receive our radio messages as light and radio information can still fall into the black hole. But he can no longer transmit any messages to us, as these would just continue to fall inward to the black hole.
Now, what would the adventurer see? Well, since no light can escape and from an outside observational point we see the adventurer has disappeared completely, the clock attached to the spacesuit would slow down to us. But to the adventurer, the clock would just keep on clicking as normal. As the adventurer gets closer and closer to the center of the black hole space-time becomes more and more warped. If the adventurer looks forward toward the black hole, all pass history time of the universe would pass in front of him in a matter of a few minutes depending on the size of the black hole. If the adventurer were to look backward, all future history events of the universe would unfold in front of the adventurer’s eyes. Space time gets weird near the center of a black hole as I said.
At this point, even unobtanium has its limit and begins to lose its integral strength. Now things get a little gruesome for our poor adventurer. The massive gravity begins to slowly tear apart the adventurer. If the adventurer were to be pointing feet first toward the black holes center, the gravitational tidal force of just a few feet difference (the difference between the location of the head and the feet) facing the black hole center would slowly stretch the body from top to bottom. This is known as spaghettification as pictured below:
This force would get more and more uncomfortable until, well to put it bluntly, your body parts would rip apart. But, like I said, pretty gruesome. As those parts fall inward, they would themselves break down into their component atoms, and then those atoms would break down into their constituent make up of electrons, protons, neutrons. Then those would break down into their elementary particles like gluons, bosons, photons, and muons. From there we don’t know for sure what would happen to matter as science is just beginning to probe past this point. But one thing can be for certain, our adventurer’s trip into the black hole has come to a sudden and painful end.
At the center of a black hole exists, what we call, the “Singularity”. This is a fancy term scientist use to explain something we when we don’t know what happens. Mathematical, applied and quantum theoretical physics just breaks down at this point and we only have simple ideas to what happens at this point. There are some fanciful unsupported ideas though. One is that at the center of a black hole, the mass that exist there creates a tiny universe. Think about the end of M.I.B. (Men In Black) when they pan out of Earth and then our solar system, then our galaxy and then to a view of multiple galaxies and then all the galaxies in a simple marble and then that marble in a bowl of a bunch of other marbles being used in a game of marbles by gigantic aliens. In theory, this could mean the big bang was simply a black hole from a larger universe than we live inside a smaller portion of it trapped unknowingly inside a black hole singularity. Does your head hurt yet? Cause I’m not done just yet…….
The other singularity theory worth mentioning is the possibility of a wormhole. Known in the science fiction community as a way to warp from a region of space-time to another region in the blink of an eye and providing a means of travel between galaxies almost instantly. In this theory, there exists no singularity where all the sucked in matter congregates. Rather, it hoovers the matter up and ejects it back out, but in a totally different area of space time, and given the massive warping to the fabric of space-time, given the immense mass density, the exit point could be in theory light years or even 1000’s of parsec’s away. To be honest, this scientifically plausibility does not have enough data to determine the outcome with any reasonable outcome at this point in our understanding. But it is something to ponder about. That is if we could survive the immense gravitational tidal forces explained earlier and overcome the intense deadly radiation of super-heated matter.
There’s still plenty of stuff to add to the black hole topic, but I think I will stop here so you can choose to study further.
For next month’s science topic, I will explain a very recent announcement of what “Gravitational Waves” are and why they are such a big deal and what does it mean for the average citizen????
Until next time, keep your minds open and question the universe!