What is a black hole?

Now that is a tricky question. And the best way to explain why it is tricky is to tell you that some scientists can’t agree on the answer. You would think if several clever scientists argue about something then it must be hard to explain. Well that’s just the situation we have with black holes. Scientists do disagree and black holes are hard to explain.

Of course we are talking about black holes in space. And we can start by asking one question. If you cannot see something, does it exist? Well here on Earth that doesn’t really work but what about far out in space? You see that’s what we’re talking about. A black hole far out in space.

There are no photos

When you see a photograph of a black hole it is a simulated or a made up picture. It’s a picture drawn on a computer by an artist. So what are black holes and how do we know they exist?

Well a black hole is an area or space in outer space which traps everything. Nothing can escape from a black hole in space. And that means light. If there is light inside a black hole then it’s trapped there. In fact a black hole is called black because no light can be seen. No light reflects and no light escapes.

So if we can’t see or photograph a black hole, how do we know they exist? Ah, well that’s where more science gets used. Scientists can see how other things in space, things we call matter, react or respond to a black hole.

The stars have secrets

We can watch certain stars and how they move, how they travel around in space and from that movement we can infer or deduce or understand that they are reacting or responding to the invisible black hole. It might sound like guesswork but it is based on facts; scientific facts.

Something else we can measure but not see helps us learn more about a black hole. And that something is to do with gas and heat. A star may give off gas which falls into the invisible black hole. Once there the heat inside the black hole ‘cooks’ the gas and this produces fantastic heat. With special equipment, scientists on Earth can detect or measure this heat.

Another thing scientists believe about black holes is that there are many of them and some of them are huge.  You can look at the night sky and see stars but you cannot see a black hole. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.



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