APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) has an awesome picture today–an artists rendition of a black hole (right) devouring one of the stars in the Cygnus constellation. You can find out more about this pic at the link, or find out more about black holes at Wikipedia (I think I just wasted a couple of fascinating hours researching black holes!)
To cap it off, here’s a list of fascinating facts about black holes:
- Black holes, strictly speaking, aren’t holes – they’re actually spheres of tightly condensed matter. Think of a sun, just not as burny. Or as bright. Or as sucky. And because they’re not holes, they don’t actually lead anywhere.
- Black holes might not let light escape, but it’s not exactly true that nothing “escapes” a black hole – as a side effect of black holes sucking in matter, they emit radiation, usually X-rays.
- Black holes don’t have to be permanent – the radiation that black holes emit take energy; energy that they usually obtain from stuff they suck in. If the radiation that they give off exceeds the energy they pull in, the black hole evaporates. Ok, it’s more complex than that, but you can go read a more detailed answer elsewhere.
- Matter in a black hole is super dense – a teaspoonful of the stuff would weigh around 90,000 tons. Give or take.
- Most galaxies have a supermassive black hole in their centers – theoretically, at least. The existence of black holes are still not 100% confirmed, but the Milky Way seems to exhibit the signs of possessing a supermassive black hole at its center.