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Black Holes - From Birth to Death

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Introduction

Black holes are among the weirdest and least understood things in the universe. What do they look like? How do they die? And what happens if you fall into one? In this article, we are going to talk about the life cycle of Black Holes – from birth to death.

Fusion of Stars

Stars, like the Sun, are huge collections of mostly hydrogen atoms. In its core, hydrogen fuses into helium. This process releases an immense amount of energy in the form of radiation. Then, radiation and the Star’s gravity will stabilize each other, keeping a balance. However, with stars that are much larger than the Sun, the heat and the core’s pressure allows helium to be fused into even heavier elements until it creates iron.

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The Birth of Darkness

Unlike the other elements , iron does not generate any energy, which means it cannot be fused into heavier elements. Hence, iron builds up at the core of the Star until it reaches a critical amount. After that, the balance between radiation and gravity abruptly breaks. The core then collapses. The star begins to implode and suck in more mass to its core. Not long after, the star dies in a massive supernova. Most of the time, it produces a neutron star, but if the star is big enough, it produces a black hole. On the other hand, neutron stars may find each other and will collapse into each other due to the neutron star’s enormous amount of gravity . This process creates a slightly smaller black hole.

Singularity

A black hole is extremely dense. The edges are thought to be less so but the core is believed to be infinitely dense. “It appears black because its gravitational pull is so strong that not even light can escape,” says Leah Tolby from Kids Astronomy. The edge of the black hole is called the event horizon while the core of the black hole is called the Singularity. Comment by Laura McCullough:

The Event Horizon

The event horizon is the edge of the black hole. If you see an object approach the event horizon, it will appear to slow down in time. Next, it will seem to freeze in time, slowly turn red and disappear. Meanwhile, if you are sucked into the black hole, you will get to experience the world in fast forward, but you won’t really get to experience it as when you get too close, you will be stretched until the breaking point. At that point, you are a stream of plasma, one atom wide. However, black holes are not like vacuum cleaners. “Black holes do not go around in space eating stars, moons, and planets. “Earth will not fall into a black hole because no black hole is close enough to the solar system for Earth to do that,” said Heather R. Smith from nasa.gov.

The Singularity

No one knows what the Singularity is. Some believe that it is infinitely dense, meaning that all its mass is concentrated in a single point in space with no surface or volume. It is as if it is a 0-dimensional point like in geometry, like infinity divided by 0.

Hawking Radiation

Ultimately, a black hole will evaporate slowly but surely through a lifelong process known as Hawking Radiation. To understand Hawking Radiation, take a look at empty space. In empty space, virtual particles appear and then annihilate each other in pairs. If this process happens at the edge of a black hole, one of the virtual particles will be swallowed by the black hole, while the other escapes and then becomes a real particle. Hence, the black hole is losing energy. This process is extremely slow at first, but it will accelerate. As the black hole evaporates more, it radiates at a higher temperature. At the last second, it radiates with the energy of around a billion nuclear bombs in a massive supernova. The black hole disappears in an intense burst of gamma radiation, Jean Tate from Universe Today suggests. The black hole completely evaporates and becomes part of history.

Fun Facts

  • Black holes can have the size of an asteroid and weigh a few times the Sun.
  • There are also supermassive black holes in the heart of every galaxy. Currently, the biggest known black hole is S5 0014+81 and weighs 4 x 1010 or 40 billion times of the Sun. It is 236.7 billion km in diameter, which is 47 times the distance from the Sun to Pluto.
  • The current lightest known black hole is XTE J1650-500 and weighs only 3.8x of the Sun.

Conclusion

A black hole is still among the least understood things in the whole universe. There are many theories of it such as The Singularity and Hawking Radiation. We think we know a lot, but we only know about 5% of the universe. We do know that black holes will eventually fully die out. As far as we know, the time for the last black hole to die is a googol years.

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