Black holes are among the most fascinating and controversial objects in the universe.
They captured the public imagination for decades, thanks in part to the late Stephen Hawking, who transformed them from a hard-to-understand scientific theory into a source of mysterious wonder.
They have also permeated popular culture through science fiction magazines, Star Trek, and Hollywood blockbusters.
But what are the five most bizarre and captivating black hole theories that are so unfathomable it’s mind blowing?
Here MailOnline takes a look.
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1. They are surrounded by a “ring of fire”
In 2019, astronomers captured the first-ever image of a black hole in a distant galaxy.
Described by scientists as “a monster”, it is three million times the size of Earth.
The image shows an intensely bright “ring of fire”, as the researchers described it, surrounding a perfectly circular black hole.
“It’s like looking at the gates of hell,” said Heino Falcke of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
As black holes consume matter that strays too close, they squeeze it into a superheated disc of glowing gas.
Mirroring the gargantuan black hole at the heart of neighboring galaxy Messier 87 (M87), the bottom of the ring appears bright as gases within it are whipped toward Earth.
The black hole also bends light around it, which creates the circular shadow.
2. They have “hair”
In 2015, the late physicist Professor Stephen Hawking suggested that black holes were not the “eternal prison” that many believe they were, adding that it was possible data was leaking out of the abyss. .
A year later, he expanded on the theory by stating that the answer lies in the zero-energy particles, or “soft hairs”, that lie on the black hole’s horizon.
This suggests that the particles at the event horizon, the boundary of the black hole, would be made up of photons and gravitons, which are subatomic packets of light and gravitational energy.
These quantum particles of very low or even zero energy, deposited at the edge of the black hole, can pick up and store information extracted from the particles falling into the black hole.
This effectively means that even though the particles falling into the black hole may have disappeared, their information continues to linger on the edge of oblivion in these “soft hairs” of quantum particles.
The theoretical physicist likened the feedback to a burnt encyclopedia, where the information would not technically be lost, but would be incredibly difficult to decipher.
The hypothesis has not been proven, but could help resolve a long-standing paradox about what happens to gas and dust that have fallen into a black hole.
3. They emit gas fountains
The powerful gravitational grip of a black hole means that nothing can escape if it comes extremely close to the edge of the hole.
But many of these mysterious objects are actually surrounded by an accumulation of gas and dust that surrounds the black holes much like water flowing down a sewer.
According to a 2018 study, this accumulation of matter is a three-step process.
First, the cold gas forms a disk near the plane of rotation, heating until the molecules break down.
Some of these molecules are expelled above and below the disk, which then falls back to create a fountain-like structure.
Alternative observations also suggest that this movement produces arching rings that surround internal columns of matter, which shoot straight into the air and strongly resemble fountains.
4. They are the source of dark energy
Last month, scientists at Imperial College London made an exciting announcement about black holes.
They revealed in an exciting way that the objects could actually be the source of an unknown energy known as dark energy.
Essentially, the Big Bang theory of the creation of our universe originally predicted that its expansion would slow down – or even begin to contract – due to the pull of gravity.
But in 1998, astronomers were surprised to find that not only was the universe still expanding, but that expansion was also accelerating.
To explain this discovery, it was proposed that a “dark energy” was responsible for pulling things apart more strongly than gravity.
This was related to a concept that Einstein had proposed but later abandoned – a “cosmological constant” that opposed gravity and kept the universe from collapsing.
Black holes posed a problem, however: it is difficult to oppose their extremely strong gravity, especially at their center, where everything seems to collapse in a phenomenon called “singularity”.
To explore the issue further, a A team of 17 researchers from nine countries studied nine billion years of black hole evolution.
They observed old and dormant galaxies and found that black holes gain mass in a way consistent with whether they contain vacuum energy, or dark energy.
In fact, the size of the universe at different points in time closely matched the mass of supermassive black holes at the hearts of galaxies.
In other words, the amount of dark energy in the universe can be explained by the vacuum energy of black holes, which means that black holes are the source of dark energy.
5. They can be “backdoors” to other parts of the universe
Deep within a black hole is the gravitational singularity, where spacetime bends toward infinity, and any matter that passes through can survive.
Or at least that’s what we always thought.
However, in a recent study, researchers suggested that there might actually be a way out through a wormhole in the center of the black hole, which acts as a “back door.”
According to this theory, anything traveling through the black hole would be “spaghettified,” or stretched to the limit, but would return to its normal size when it emerged in another region of the universe.
Although a human is unlikely to survive this process, the researchers say matter inside the black hole would not be lost forever as previously thought, and would instead be expelled to another area of the black hole. the universe.
And, the researchers say, there would be no need for “exotic” energy to generate the wormhole, as Einstein’s theory of gravity suggests.
BLACK HOLES HAVE GRAVITATIONAL PULL SO STRONG THAT EVEN LIGHT CAN’T ESCAPE
Black holes are so dense and their gravitational pull is so strong that no form of radiation can escape them – not even light.
They act as intense sources of gravity that suck dust and gas around them. Their intense gravitational pull is thought to be what stars in galaxies orbit.
Their formation is still poorly understood. Astronomers believe they can form when a large cloud of gas up to 100,000 times larger than the sun collapses into a black hole.
Many of these black hole seeds then merge to form much larger supermassive black holes, which sit at the center of all known massive galaxies.
Alternatively, a supermassive black hole seed could originate from a giant star, about 100 times the mass of the sun, which eventually turns into a black hole after running out of fuel and collapsing.
When these giant stars die, they also go into a “supernova,” a huge explosion that blasts material from the star’s outer layers into deep space.