Saturday, February 25, 2006

An email about black holes

While preparing to use the telescope yesterday, I received the following question from a reader:

I think that if you can go through a black hole without getting ripped apart, you would be spit out of a white hole in a new universe. Please email me back and tell me if that is a good thought.

This is quite an interesting thought; unfortunately, I cannot give a very definitive response. However, I'll do my best to ramble on some about it.

The trick with black holes is that we do not and cannot know what is going on inside the black hole's event horizon, or the point at which gravity is so strong that light cannot escape. At some point deep inside the black hole, the laws of physics as we know them must break down. So what does that mean?

Some people have suggested, like you, that the center of a black hole (also called a singularity) may open a tear in the fabric of space and time, creating a wormhole to other parts of the universe, or perhaps other universes. The main problem with this idea is that we don't yet have a good theory for this and can't test the idea. We don't know if other universes may exist, or if it is even possible to find out. So we have left the bounds of science and entered into pure speculation.

The only firm thing I can say is that, to date, no astronomer has ever found a "white hole," or an object spewing out matter. This doesn't mean that they don't exist, but they must be rare if we haven't found them yet.

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