How do black holes emit light?

Black Hole Accretion Disc Light Massive Color Picture Artist's Rendition Weekly Show

If there’s one thing everyone knows about black holes, it’s that they give off no light. These behemoths of time and space erase objects from history, swallowing everything in their paths. Yet a few minutes of research will tell you we can detect black holes through their radiation. In fact, black holes are supposedly some of the brightest objects in the universe. Welcome to the bizarre world of astrophysics.

First of all, your science teachers were telling the truth: black holes give off no light. As their namesake implies, these objects have grown so massive not even light can escape their gravity. If a rogue black hole flew between us and the stars, the only way to detect it would be through its gravity. Astrophysicists have shown, however, that most matter in the universe clumps together. Stars live in galaxies, and galaxies move in clusters. Black holes often live at the centers of galaxies or alongside stars throughout them.

Black Hole Accretion Disc Light Massive Color Picture Artist's Rendition Weekly Show

An artist’s rendition of an accretion disc. Scientists have yet to understand why the black hole emits particle streams on polar axes.

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Stephen Hawking: there are no black holes

Black Hole Artist's Impression Astronaut Falling Into Tidal Forces Firewall Hawking Weekly Show Stephen

Famed physicist Stephen Hawking announced last week there are no black holes—at least not the way we think of them. His new, not-yet-peer-reviewed paper says the idea of an event horizon—the point of no escape—violates quantum mechanics and therefore does not exist. In doing away with the event horizon, Hawking claims to have solved the firewall paradox, one of the most pressing problems in modern physics.

First, some background. Stephen Hawking is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist and the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge University. His work in quantum mechanics and general relativity is a cornerstone of modern physics and has made him one of the most famous scientists of the past century.

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10 mind-blowing secrets of outer space Part I

Have you ever looked at the night sky and marveled at the stars? Here, circling our lonely star in our lonely galaxy, we gaze past the bright lights, imagining the wonders they conceal. These tiny specks contain secrets about the universe we can only begin to imagine—truths that challenge our understanding of space and time themselves. Below are a few mind-bending facts about outer space and the universe. Feel free to leave discoveries that peak your interests in the comments section below. Click here for numbers 5-1!

Space and time are relative

If there’s one thing that’s absolute in this world, it’s time, right? Well, not quite. While we see time and space as constants, they are actually relative to the observer. What does this mean? According to Einstein, if you were to fly past the Earth at 10% of the speed of light, you would see some strange things. Everybody on Earth would slow down and contract—yes, actually become shorter. You could watch them age for years, but from their perspective they would only have lived for a fraction of that time. In fact, from their reference frame, Earth would be normal and these things would be happening to you. The craziest part of it all? You would both be right.

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