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Curious Kids: Where do black holes lead to?

By Janie Hoormann, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Astrophysics, The University of Queensland

Nobody knows for sure where black holes lead to. Shutterstock

This is an article from Curious Kids, a series for children. The Conversation is asking kids to send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. All questions are welcome – serious, weird or wacky!

You might also like the podcast Imagine This, a co-production between ABC KIDS listen and The Conversation, based on Curious Kids.


Hi. My name is Merion and my question to Curious Kids is: where do black holes lead to? – Merion, age 9, Fremantle, Western Australia.


Hi Merion. First, let’s start off with what black holes are.

Black holes can form when a massive star dies. Stars have a lot of mass which means there is a lot of gravity pulling in on the star. Gravity is the same force that keeps you on Earth so you don’t float into space!

These stars are also made up of very hot gas which lets off a lot of heat. This creates a force which pushes on the star from the inside out.

Normally the pull from gravity and the push from the heat balance each other out. But, as the star gets older, it burns up all of the fuel and there isn’t anything left to push out anymore. Now gravity takes over and all of the mass of the star falls in on itself into a single point. This is what we call a black hole.




Read more:
Curious Kids: Does space go on forever?


You will never be able to escape a black hole

Because black holes are made up of a lot of mass squished into a very small area of space (in science speak we say black holes are very dense) they create a lot of gravity. This pulls in anything that gets too close.

The pull they create is so strong that if you get too close to a black hole – even if you are travelling away from it at the fastest speed it is possible to go – you will never be able escape. This is what astronomers call the event horizon. Once you are inside the event horizon of the black hole you will never be able to leave.




An artist’s impression of a black hole.
Shutterstock

Black holes were given that name because if you were to take a picture of one, you wouldn’t be able to see anything. No light would be able to escape the black hole and make it to the camera (and after all, all a camera does is record light). You would just see a picture of the universe with a dark circle around where the black hole sits.

Sadly, it is really hard to get a camera good enough to take pictures like that. Instead, astronomers study black holes by looking at the stuff that is getting sucked into the black holes, before it gets too close and goes past the event horizon. There is no way for us to see what happens once you get inside.

So, where do they lead to?

Now to the big question: what happens once you go into a black hole and past the event horizon? The answer is that we don’t actually know yet. We are still trying to figure that out!

One idea is that black holes form things called wormholes. You can read this Curious Kids article to find out all about wormholes.

These wormholes act as tunnels between two different parts of the space. This means that you could step into a black hole and end up in a completely different part of our universe. You might even end up in a different universe!

Astronomers have spent a lot of time trying to describe how wormholes could form and work. We won’t know for sure if that is really what happens once you go through a black hole though until we figure out a way to see it happen.

Maybe one day you will become a scientist and help us find these answers. Your excellent question shows you are on the right track.




Read more:
Curious Kids: Why do you have to wear a helmet in space?


Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to us. You can:

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The Conversation

Janie Hoormann receives funding from the Australian Research Council.


Originally published in The Conversation.