Black Holes - Space Science
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Black Holes


See how she spins faster when she pulls in her arms?

June 2016 - A black hole is a place in space where there is a huge amount of mass in a very small area. Because gravity is the same as mass times 1/volume, when you have a lot of mass in a small volume it makes so much gravity that even light can't get away from the black hole, so it looks black to us. That happens when the speed you would have to be going to overcome the gravity and get away from the black hole is bigger than the speed of light.

If you think of space and time the way physicists do, as being both part of one thing, spacetime, then a black hole might be a place where spacetime bends in a special way so that when things near the black hole go forward in time, as everything does, they also have to go forward in space and deeper into the black hole.

complicated steel machine
LIGO gravitational wave detector

Astronomers think most black holes are about the size of large stars, and get started after a supernova when big stars collapse in on themselves. There may also be a lot of teeny-tiny black holes, called micro black holes, but nobody has seen one or proved that they must exist. These micro black holes might have formed during the Big Bang.

Many astronomers think that there are black holes at the center of galaxies of stars, including our galaxy, the Milky Way. These would be extra-big black holes, millions or billions of times the mass of our Sun. Nobody's ever seen a black hole, so the only way we know they exist is that we need them to make calculations about space come out according to the laws of physics. New detectors here on Earth, though, recently picked up tiny vibrations which are probably the gravity waves created when two black holes run into each other billions of miles away - like the last ripples from throwing a stone into a pond.

ripples on a pond

Because stars spin around, black holes made from old stars probably also spin around. Probably these black holes spin very fast, because they are so much smaller than the stars they came from, just as an ice skater or ballet dancer spins faster when she pulls her arms tight in to her sides, because of conservation of momentum.

Learn by doing: throw a pebble into a pond and watch the ripples, then spin around with your arms out and suddenly pull your arms in tight.
More about supernovas
More about gravity

Bibliography and further reading about black holes:

Stars
Space
Physics
Quatr.us home


Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Check out our new ebook: Short and Simple: Ancient Greek Myths! - just out! Twenty-five easy to read, illustrated stories, from Pandora to Medea, Icarus, and the Trojan Horse (you can read these online as samples). Get it this week for just $14.99, five dollars off the regular price of $19.99.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 21 September, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT