Black holes- From myth to reality

A century ago, if someone had told you that after the next few generations, we’ll have the technology where one could talk to a person on the other side of the globe, we would not have believed it. But we witnessed, and science made it possible.

Just like that, a century ago, while devising the general theory of relativity, Einstein suggested the constellation of the high gravity objects in the cosmos. It was thought that their gravitational pull was so strong that even the fastest object in the cosmos- light- once entered, could not have escaped it. Hypothetically, they are the objects created by the destruction of the first stars, which were billions of times more powerful and stronger than our sun that and sustained the bulk of energy causing them to collapse and form a Black hole. Einstein found the idea to be so naïve that he didn’t believe his own theory.  But it did inspire one of his fellow Germans.

Karl Schwarzschild, who participated in the World War I, but was sent home after being ill. He devoted his entire time until his death, in seeking the exact answers for Einstein’s field equation. His work, published under the title “On the Field of Gravity of point mass in the theory of Einstein” presented the solutions to the unsolved problems of the veteran physicist’s famous theory.

The famous Schwarzschild radius formula, calculated the radius of the event horizon, above the surface of the mass, shrinking in to a singularity.

Since then, it had become the center of the attention for the several theoretical physicists. From Hendrik Lorentz to Arthur Edington, every one tried to understand the complexity of the mystery behind these massive supernatural objects of the universe. Though all these greats of the game played their part in the bigger picture, but none dared to name the object. After almost fifty years, John Archibald Wheeler came up with the term, “Black Hole,” hence giving them an identity for the first time.

Then, came the doyen of physics and mathematics in the modern times, Stephen Hawking, with the idea, “Black holes aren’t really black, they emit radiations.” He suggested that if the pair of virtual particles- the source for radiation, which are usually a pair of positive and negative energy- pops at the event horizon, one particle will get sucked while the other would go sky rocket. The phenomenon was named after Hawking as Hawking’s Radiations.

But it remained the mystery and lot of people abated the idea of their existence. So, a group of few like-minded astronomers gathered and started yearning to get an actual image for these objects. It was a difficult task, as the black holes presented no light whatsoever, but thanks to Hawking, they knew that they do emit radiations. So, billions of dollars were spent and a telescope was designed that could detect those radiations and get an image for the black holes. Eight, such telescopes were installed at the different positions around the globe. Finally, after years of rigorous efforts, an image of a supermassive black hole has finally been acquired; a super massive black hole, staging at the center of messier 87, distancing at about 55 million light years away from earth. It has been hailed as one of the biggest breakthroughs in the modern day science. But now the question is, was it worth to spend billions of dollars on such project? Or was it just out of stubbornness of few scientists to prove their point?

A supermassive black hole, like the one photographed, is also present at the center of our galaxy, which is called Sagittarius A. Likewise, one such super massive black exists at the center of almost every single galaxy. Studies have found that these supermassive black holes and the orbiting stars are directly co-related. The greater the black hole, the faster do the stars revolve in their orbits. They play a fundamental role in the genesis and evolution of the universe. As already discussed, they are present at the center of every galaxy, so they provide stability, not only to the stars around them but also to the neighboring clusters. It is thought that, had the first stars not transformed in to black holes and absorb the energy in the aftermaths of big bang, it would not have been possible for the universe to evolve, hence the existence of life itself. So, this explains as to what gives them such importance in the cosmos.

With years to come, the future looks bright. And who know, the discovery of Hawking’s holy grail, the Theory of Everything, is next.

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