If you ever wanted to see a black hole, then you might be in luck. The good thing about science is it loves to go to extremes. Much of the history of science is about people trying to figure out major mysteries and explanations for events we observe. Many of those mysteries had been thought to be impossible to figure out only years earlier. Could the same be said for black holes today?
Supercomputer Help Analyze Black Holes
Charles Gammie happens to be a well-known computational astrophysicist who utilizes supercomputers to simulate fluid behavior throughout space. Gammmie’s research has studied black holes and the activities that surround black holes such as the gaseous spinning disks.
The thing is that a black hole is an extremely massive compact object. The outlying regions around them have been completely overpowered by gravity. We are talking about gravity in the realm of what Albert Einstein discussed in his Theory of Relativity where curvature of time and space occurs. Every black hole is comprised of two standard parts. The dead center of the black hole is called the singularity where mass is smashed into one single point. The second part is the event horizon which is observed to surround the singularity. And this gravitational pull is so immense that even light rays cannot escape this event horizon.
Many experts jokingly claim that black holes are described as simply X-games of the land of physics. They contain the extremes of space-time waiting to be explored. These days, scientists have very sound indirect evidence that these black holes exist, yet being able to get a complete view of one is the total dream for many physicists.
The Task of Finding Black Holes
If you have paid attention, then you have probably wondered how in the world could you ever see a black hole if light is not able to escape its gravitation pull? The thing is that even though all matter that crosses the event horizon is forever lost, it is still possible to main an orbit around a black hole and not fall into it. Lots of black holes have been surrounded by these swirling disks of gas known as “accretion disks.” From time to time, matter that resides in these disks will emit beam of light that are able to escape and get to our powerful telescopes.
An Event Horizon Telescope which Charles Gammie has talked about has been designed to see this “shadow” within the event horizon of a black hole. The is because of the light coming from these accretion disks. While it is called a shadow, this is really not entirely accurate. The space-time surrounding an event horizon is very strongly curved making it possible to view portions of the disk that resides behind the black hole. The images provided is often described like those seen in a fun-house mirror.
However, when an image like this is gathered, it requires pushing the technology of telescopes to their limits. The actual size of a standard black hole’s event horizon depends on its mass. If you have a black hole that is the same size of the sun, its event horizon would be only about a mile wide. Needless to say, this small width would very hard to find within the depth of the universe.
However in the center of the deep universe, we have found “supermassive” black holes that are over billions of times bigger than our sun. These are the black holes that these studies are targeting. Hopefully with any luck, we will soon be able to see a black hole.