Curious Galactic Objects: Black Holes

space After eight years of planning, eight months of interplanetary space flight, and seven minutes of sheer terror during touchdown, the Mars Rover Curiosity landed safely on the surface of Mars on August 6th, 2012.  The Mars mission, what NASA’s director of the Mars Exploration Program called “the Super Bowl of planetary exploration,” is scheduled to last two full Earth years.  Curiosity’s objective is to study the soil, rocks and atmosphere of Mars to determine the viability of life on that planet.  The landing’s success marks the first step towards putting American astronauts on Mars, which conceivably could happen as early as the 2030s.  In honor of the extraordinary Red Planet Day and the Mars Rover Curiosity, today’s blog is devoted to curious objects beyond Planet Earth, namely black holes.

Black holes may be among the most mysterious objects in the universe.  No one really knows where they came from, what they can do or what they are.  In fact, they are impossible to see!  The data collected on these invisible monsters has been gathered by observing the effect they have on their surroundings.  Despite the obstacles faced by observers, we do know that certain areas of space which emit no visible radiation, rendering them “black” to telescopes, draw matter toward themselves.  These black holes have gravitational fields so powerful that even light cannot escape them.  Astronomers surmise that in order to emit such a strong field, black holes must be incredibly dense.  An article on NASA’s information website puts it this way: “think of a star ten times more massive than the Sun squeezed into a sphere approximately the diameter of New York City.”

When a black holes passes through a cloud of space dust, or any interstellar matter, the dust gets sucked towards the black hole in what is known as accretion.  Often the only reason we see black holes is because we can observe light that is traveling far enough from the center of the black hole being bent by the gravitational field.  If stars get too close, the black hole can rip them apart.  Black holes are dangerously powerful.  Little is known about their formation, but scientists theorize that black holes arise from the collapse of Supernova stars.  Theoretically, when a massive star nears the end of its lifespan, it collapses on itself.  The outer layers fall towards the core, but are sent shooting back outward when the overcharged core explodes.  The implosion of a star many times the size of the sun, results in an incredibly dense region of matter with no more radiation to emit.  Imagine a huge ball of paper getting crushed into a tiny sphere by a trash compactor.  Black holes are also sometimes manufactured by the collision of stellar objects, such as a black hole and a neutron star.

Though much of what we know about black holes has been discovered quite recently, the idea that massively dense, light-bending objects exist in space has been around for years.  Einstein predicted the existence of black holes in his theory of general relativity. The term “black hole” was coined in 1967 by John Wheeler, a Princeton physicist. When he developed the term, he probably never imagined how colloquial its usage would become.  In today’s world, we like to describe our rooms, our closets and our offices as “black holes.”  Anyone with a messy room knows his closet definitely fits the description of a black hole:  Loose socks slowly descend into a densely packed hamper, never to return, shoes get buried under a mountain of clothing and the coat rack is so packed that individual shirts cannot be found.  Sounds like a black hole to me.

Black holes are thought to exist at the center of most galaxies.  Does your world seem to revolve around a giant black hole?  Is your office nicknamed the black hole?  What about the file room? It may seem like important documents zoom towards oblivion on their way to the filing cabinet.  Frustrating does not even begin to describe the process of hunting down information at work.  On average, employees spend up to 4 hours a day looking up information.   If you find yourself sympathizing at all with this paragraph, you need to contact Tarheel Imaging.  Do not let information tracking waste your time.  A good manager knows how to delegate.  You need to delegate your file systems to us.  We can organize, sort, secure, and manage all of your documents.  Let us help you before your super nova business collapses into a black hole.  We want to help you shine, not implode.