Black holes are extremely dense gravitational masses in space that have the ability to consume anything in their wake. Here, we’ll take a look at five facts about black holes that you may not have picked up on from your favorite sci-fi movies.
1. Albert Einstein predicted the existence of black holes long before astronomers observed the phenomenon in space.
The first signs of a black hole were detected in 1964, and the first x-rays from a black hole were discovered in 1971–but Albert Einstein predicted the existence of black holes all the way back in 1916. His general theory of relativity predicted that the collapse of space objects must result in a massive gravitational pull.
2. Our galaxy–the Milky Way–is likely home to around 100 million black holes.
It’s difficult for scientists to see black holes, making them much harder to find than stars and other celestial bodies. This means that astronomers have to estimate the number of black holes in an area. The size of our galaxy leads astronomers to believe that there are an incredibly high number of black holes surrounding our solar system.
3. The closest black hole to Earth is referred to as “The Unicorn” by astronomers.
Located about 1,500 light-years away (a light year is the distance that light can travel over the course of one year–1,500 light-years is over 5 trillion miles), the Unicorn black hole has a very low mass for a black hole, about three times that of our sun. The Unicorn is also located in the Monoceros constellation, which is also known as the unicorn constellation.
4. In 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope captured the first recorded image of a black hole.
Astronomers aren’t able to see black holes the same way they see other objects in space. In 2019, an advanced telescope, known as the Event Horizon telescope, captured the first-ever image of a black hole, helping both scientists and laypeople understand the intricacies of these poorly-understood gravitational forces. The image captured (linked above) showed a black hole named Sagittarius A, located at the center of the Milky Way.
5. Once a particle enters the boundary of a black hole, escape is impossible.
Black holes consist of three layers: the outer event horizon, the inner event horizon, and the singularity (the center of the black hole). Once a particle enters the event horizon, the particle is subject to the black hole’s massive gravitational pull, and is unable to escape. The particle becomes a part of the black hole’s mass, adding to it’s gravitational pull. The more gas and dust a black hole accumulates, the larger it becomes.