Black Holes: The Universe’s Planet Eaters

The world is a fascinating yet terrifying place, especially during the earlier years when almost everything was cloaked in mystery. Thankfully, there’s one thing we as people have in common: a fascination with the unknown. With curiosity as fuel, many things have since been discovered over the years. The organisms and species roaming the lands, the seas, and the sky? Most – if not all – of them are now part of public knowledge.

The researchers behind these breakthroughs undoubtedly deserve all the credit they get, but still, the journey doesn’t end there just yet. Besides the other mysteries lurking within our home planet, Earth, the universe beyond the skies also has plenty of things just waiting to be unraveled. Fortunately, thanks to technological advancements and innovations, we’ve had the chance to sneak a peek into what the universe has in store. As amazing as that is, however, this opportunity also showed us something we couldn’t and shouldn’t ignore: black holes, cosmic beasts that consume any celestial body within its reach.

What Are Black Holes?

While the concept of black holes already intrigued scientists back in the early 1900s, with Albert Einstein predicting their existence in 1916, it wasn’t until 1971 when a real one was spotted. Now, the question is, how did they come to be?

Stars age and go through different phases throughout their lifespan. Plus, like many things, they rely on a source of energy to keep on going. By the time they run out of gas, however, they collapse into a new celestial being. It could be anything, depending on its mass. Small stars, ones that are at most three times the mass of our solar system’s sun, either turn into white dwarfs or neutron stars. If a bigger star collapses, though, it becomes a black hole, a celestial body with a gravitational force that can pull in anything near its proximity – even light.

How Many Black Holes Are Out There?

The universe is a big place, and we only know a very small portion of it. Even so, in that small portion alone, there are already at least a million black holes present.

Like the stars and the planets, black holes often come in different sizes. The small ones are called stellar black holes. Despite being the smallest of the bunch, stellar black holes possess a high degree of density. In fact, they’re more than capable of compressing an object three times the mass of the sun into something as small as a city! Next up, we have intermediate black holes, which are said to be made when a cluster of stars collide in a chain reaction. To top it off, when more and more of these intermediates combine, they then turn into the largest type of black hole. Around the same size as the sun but three times its mass, supermassive black holes can often be found at the center of every galaxy, including the Milky Way.

What Do They Look Like?

Besides being a subject for various research studies, black holes have also found their way into the science-fiction genre. Through the years, more and more storytellers provide their own twist on this celestial beast. While most of them have since been debunked, there is one narrative that contains some truth.

In 2014, Christopher Nolan released a sci-fi epic titled Interstellar. While some of the concepts shown on film aren’t applicable in a real-life setting, there is one thing Interstellar has become most known for. With help from physicist Kip Thorne, who also made investments as the project’s executive producer and adviser, the visual effects team behind the movie made what is now known as the most accurate depiction of a black hole to date. However, it looked too overwhelming and intimidating, so they added a few changes before finally putting it in the movie. Still, it would’ve been interesting to see a cut of the film where they used the more scientifically correct version of the black hole.