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Einstein’s famous prediction about gravitational waves may be coming true

One of the biggest mysteries in modern physics may have just been solved. The scientific community is abuzz with rumors that physicists have finally detected gravitational waves, fluctuations in the curvature of space-time that move at the speed of light throughout the galaxy. Noted physicist Albert Einstein first predicted them in 1916, theorizing they might explain how mass affects the very fabric of space-time. The discovery of the gravitational waves would be one of the biggest discoveries in physics in history

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No one knew exactly what a black hole would look like until they actually built one. Light, temporarily trapped around the black hole, produced an unexpectedly complex fingerprint pattern near the black hole’s shadow. And the glowing accretion disk appeared above the black hole, below the black hole, and in front of it. “I never expected that,” Thorne says. “Eugénie just did the simulations and said, ‘Hey, this is what I got.’ It was just amazing.”

In the end, Nolan got elegant images that advance the story. Thorne got a movie that teaches a mass audience some real, accurate science. But he also got something he didn’t expect: a scientific discovery. 

MORE: Wrinkles in Spacetime: The Warped Astrophysics of Interstellar 

Black holes aren’t black

They’re very dark, sure, but they aren’t black. They glow, slightly, giving off light across the whole spectrum, including visible light.

This radiation is called “Hawking radiation”, after the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University Stephen Hawking, who first proposed its existence. Because they are constantly giving this off, and therefore losing mass, black holes will eventually evaporate altogether if they don’t have another source of mass to sustain them; for example interstellar gas or light. (Source)

VLT Reveals Strange Alignments Between Supermassive Black Hole Axes and Large-Scale Structure

New observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have revealed alignments over the largest structures ever discovered in the Universe.

A European research team has found that the rotation axes of the central supermassive black holes in a sample of quasars are parallel to each other over distances of billions of light-years.

The team has also found that the rotation axes of these quasars tend to be aligned with the vast structures in the cosmic web in which they reside.

This is incredible!

Black Holes Could Turn You Into a Hologram, and You Wouldn’t Even Notice

By Tim De Chant

Few things are as mysterious as black holes. Except, of course, what would happen to you if you fell into one.

Physicists have been debating what might happen to anyone unfortunate enough to slip toward the singularity, and so far, they’ve come up with approximately 2.5 ways you might die, from being stretched like spaghetti to burnt to a crisp.

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“It also produces multiple images. You would see two duplicate images of the same star on opposite sides of the black hole, because light rays passing the black hole on either side get bent toward you. In fact, there are infinitely many images of each star, corresponding to light rays that circle the black hole several times before coming toward you.” Source

What Would Happen To You If You Fell Into A Black Hole?

Black holes are without question some of the strangest places in the universe. So massive that they hideously deform space and time, so dense that their centers are called “points at infinity,” and pitch-black because not even light can escape them, it isn’t surprising that so many people wonder what it would be like to visit one.

It’s not exactly a restive vacation spot, as it turns out.

If you were to take a step into a black hole, your body would most closely resemble “toothpaste being extruded out of the tube,” said Charles Liu, an astrophysicist who works at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium.

Liu said that when an object crosses a black hole’s “event horizon” — its outer boundary, or point of no return — the same physics that causes Earth’s ocean tides begins to take effect. Gravity’s strength decreases with distance, so the moon pulls on the side of the Earth closer to it a bit more vigorously than the side farther from it, and as a result, Earth elongates ever so slightly in the direction of the moon. The land is sturdy, so it doesn’t move much, but the water on Earth’s surface is fluid, so it flows along the elongated axis. “That’s the tidal interaction,” he said.

Rising tides are about as calming a scene as there is. A human toeing the line of a black hole? Not so much.

Near a black hole roughly the size of Earth, tidal forces are magnified off the scale. Swan-diving into one, the top of your head would feel so much more gravitational pull than the tips of your toes that you would be stretched, longer and longer. “Sir Martin Rees coined the term ‘spaghettification,’ which is a perfectly good way to put it. You eventually become a stream of subatomic particles that swirl into the black hole,” Liu said.

Because your brain would dissociate into its constituent atoms almost instantly, you’d have little opportunity to soak in the scenery at the threshold of an Earth-size black hole.

However, if you’re dead-set on visiting a space-time singularity, we recommend going big; bigger black holes have less extreme surfaces. “If you had a black hole the size of our solar system, then the tidal forces at the event horizon … are not quite that strong. So you could actually maintain your structural integrity,” Liu said.

In that case, you would get to experience the effects of the curvature of space-time, predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity, firsthand.

“First of all, you approach the speed of light as you fall into the black hole. So the faster you move through space, the slower you move through time,” he said. “Furthermore, as you fall, there are things that have been falling in front of you that have experienced an even greater 'time dilation’ than you have. So if you’re able to look forward toward the black hole, you see every object that has fallen into it in the past. And then if you look backwards, you’ll be able to see everything that will ever fall into the black hole behind you.

"So the upshot is, you’ll get to see the entire history of that spot in the universe simultaneously,” he said, “from the Big Bang all the way into the distant future.”

Not such a bad way to go, in the grand scheme of things.

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Different views of an irregular galaxy NGC 5408

Most galaxies have a majestic spiral or elliptical structure. About a quarter of galaxies, though, look quite messy. Known as irregular galaxies, this group includes NGC 5408 above.

John Herschel recorded the existence of NGC 5408 in 1834. Astronomers had long mistaken it for a planetary nebula, an expelled cloud of material from an aging star. Instead, it turned out to be an entire galaxy, located about 16 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur).

In yet another sign of NGC 5408 breaking convention, the galaxy is associated with an object known as an ultraluminous X-ray source, one of the best studied of its class. These rare objects beam out huge amounts of energetic X-rays. Astrophysicists believe these sources to be strong candidates for intermediate-mass black holes. This hypothetical type of black hole has a good deal more mass than the black holes formed when giant stars collapse. (x)

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Judy Schmidt

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Astroquizzical: How Does Gravity Escape From A Black Hole?

“Information doesn’t always travel at the speed of light, though — depending on the environment that the information is traveling through, and the form of that information (which is not always light), the speed of information can proceed at speeds that are much slower than the speed of light. The speed of light in a vacuum seems to be a hard upper limit that nothing can surpass, but if your information is in the form of a compression wave, like sound, then the information travels at the speed of sound in that medium.”

There’s something puzzling about black holes, if you stop to consider it. On the one hand, they’re objects so massive and dense — compacted into such a small region of space — that nothing can escape from it, not even light. That’s the definition of a black hole, and why “black” is in the name. But gravity also moves at the speed of light, and yet the gravitational influence of a black hole has absolutely no problem extending not only beyond the event horizon, but infinite distances out into the abyss of space. Jillian Scudder has the answer to this puzzling conundrum!

Researcher shows that black holes do not exist

Black holes have long captured the public imagination and been the subject of popular culture, from Star Trek to Hollywood. They are the ultimate unknown – the blackest and most dense objects in the universe that do not even let light escape. And as if they weren’t bizarre enough to begin with, now add this to the mix: they don’t exist.

By merging two seemingly conflicting theories, Laura Mersini-Houghton, a physics professor at UNC-Chapel Hill in the College of Arts and Sciences, has proven, mathematically, that black holes can never come into being in the first place. The work not only forces scientists to reimagine the fabric of space-time, but also rethink the origins of the universe.

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The largest (known) black hole in the universe is capable of devouring about 4000 solar masses of shit a year, but even if both scorpio and this black hole existed together for all of eternity, it could never consume all the love scorpio feels for those they care about. Or the hatred they feel for those who have wronged them.

Researcher shows that black holes do not exist
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Black holes have long captured the public imagination and been the subject of popular culture, from Star Trek to Hollywood. They are the ultimate unknown – the blackest and most dense objects in the universe that do not even let light escape. And as if they weren’t bizarre enough to begin with, now add this to the mix: they don’t exist.

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Stephen Hawking has a new way the world could end: A mini black hole

Just in case you hadn’t gotten the message last time, Stephen Hawking thinks you should know we’re screwed. Still. In his latest pronouncement Hawking said that “mini black holes” could be the cause of humanity’s ultimate demise. There’s just one problem with his theory.

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If our eyes could see gravitational waves

How would you see two gigantic black holes merging? Black holes by their very nature emit no light at all. Rather than light, it would be a different story if our eyes could see gravitational waves.

This is a computer simulation of the gravitational waves that would ripple away from the titanic collision, a bit like the ripples on a pond when a pebble drops into the water. In the case of gravitational waves, the disturbances are not in water but in the spacetime continuum. This is the mathematical ‘fabric’ of space and time that Albert Einstein used to explain gravity.

Gravitational radiation has been indirectly observed but never seen directly. Its detection would open a whole new way of studying the Universe. As a result, astronomers are working on both ground-based and space-based detectors. And it is a real challenge. (read here why)

Unlocking the gravitational Universe will require a highly ambitious mission. In preparation, European Space Agency will launch LISA-Pathfinder this November to test some of the essential technologies needed to build confidence in future spaceborne gravitational wave observatories.

image credit: NASA/C. Henze; text: ESA