Myths: Black Holes

Black holes

1. Black holes are giant, cosmic vacuum cleaners that swallow up everything around them.

Black holes do not suck up nearby material. If the Sun were magically converted into a black hole, Earth's orbit would not change. Material generally falls into a black hole when it collides with other material orbiting the black hole. The collision alters the material's orbit. Instead of orbiting a comfortable distance from the black hole, the material is now orbiting too close to the black hole. Then the black hole's enormous gravity traps the material in a one-way spiral to oblivion.

2. You can see a black hole.

The light produced or reflected by objects makes them visible. Since no light can escape from a black hole, we can't see it. Instead, we observe black holes indirectly by their effects on material around them.

3. Black holes lead to other places.

In science fiction shows, people sometimes travel through wormholes. Many students think black holes are wormholes and therefore lead to other places. Wormholes are an intriguing possibility, but have not been shown to exist.

Myths: Black Holes