• Question: I like Black Holes a lot. Is there anything else in space that can cause as much damage as one?

    Asked by ImASwot to Zoe, Kai, Jose Eliel, Hannah, Hamid, Claire on 12 Mar 2019.
    • Photo: Jose Eliel Camargo Molina

      Jose Eliel Camargo Molina answered on 12 Mar 2019:

      Black holes can cause “damage” in the sense that if something gets too close, it will unavoidably fall into it. But the same is true for stars, which are essentially a huge ball of nuclear explosions.

      And stars can also explode, in incredibly powerful blasts that we call supernovae.

      Black holes are a bit different in the sense that it is not completely understood what happens to things that fall into a black hole. While what happens to things that fall into the sun depends on what those things are, in a black hole (as far as we understand) the radiation that comes out does not depend on the nature of the things that fell into it.

      So there is some “information” that is lost, or maybe not. Scientists are working on that. But this is related to your question, as this loss of information is pretty destructive and damaging, so much so that it even goes against some other ideas in physics and is the source of many interesting questions and precisely at the cutting edge of our current understanding.

      Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XkHBmE-N34

    • Photo: Claire Greenwell

      Claire Greenwell answered on 13 Mar 2019:

      Black holes cause damage to things long before they fall into them! Anything that gets close to them experiences something called “tidal forces” – this is where the gravity is so different between the side of an object that’s close to the black hole, and the side that’s far away, that the force of this can pull things apart. This happens with planets as well – for example the reason the moon faces towards us all the time is because the closer side feels more gravity all the time, which slowly stopped it spinning. A black hole is much smaller, and much more massive, so the tidal forces are much stronger.
      Large black holes that have a lot of matter falling into them can also radiate energy incredibly brightly – so bright that this is often all we can see of very far away galaxies. This radiation can change the nature of anything that it hits.
      It really depends on what you mean by damage – in physics often the creation of one thing depends on the destruction of another. For example without supernovae (the explosions of old stars) there wouldn’t be anything with high enough energy to make heavy elements like iron, and without these we couldn’t exist. Matter falling into a black hole is destroyed (or becomes part of the black hole) but the energy that is put out because of this can feed into the galaxy around it, which is a very important process in the galaxy’s evolution.