The Swedish Academy on Thursday awarded the British Roger Penrose, the German Reinhard Genzel and the American Andrea Ghez for their research on these bodies. The details
October 6, 2020 Share on FacebookShare Share on TwitterTweet Share on WhatsAppShare
It is a star that died but is so massive or has such a great gravitational pull that not even light can escape (Shutterstock)
This morning the British Roger Penrose , the German Reinhard Genzel and the American Andrea Ghez were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their research on black holes.
Penrose was distinguished for discovering that the formation of a black hole is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity. The Oxford University professor “invented ingenious mathematical methods to explore Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity and showed that the theory leads to the formation of black holes, those monsters that capture everything that enters them.”
Genzel and Ghez were awarded for the discovery of a supermassive and compact object in the center of our galaxy. Each of them led a group of astronomers who have been investigating a region called Sagittarius A * since the 1990s. His pioneering work provided the strongest evidence to date for a black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
But what are black holes? According to Constantino Baikouzis, director of the La Matanza Astronomical Park program, everything arises from the consequences and the final stages of stellar evolution: “ It is a star that died but it is so massive or has such a great gravitational attraction that not even light can escape ” .
Astronomers seek to observe this “monster” by contrast, that is, thanks to the bright background that forms the matter that surrounds it (Shutterstock)
However, not all stars turn into black holes. They are only made up of very massive stars. When they use up their fuel at the end of their life, they collapse in a catastrophic and unstoppable way and in their collapse form a well in space.
According to the law of general relativity published in 1915 by Albert Einstein, which explains how it works, the gravitational attraction of these cosmic “monsters” is such that nothing escapes them: neither matter nor light, whatever their wavelength. And if light, which is the fastest traveling thing in our Universe, cannot get out, then nothing can.
“ When we talk about the fact that not even light can escape , it means that it exceeds the escape speed, that is, the speed with which any object needs to move to move away indefinitely from a more massive body or system to which only gravity binds , and this relationship between escape velocity and black holes is something that has been studied for a long time ”, emphasized Baikouzis.
The first image of a black hole, taken in the Messier 87 galaxy (Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration via the US National Science Foundation)
How is a black hole identified? Astronomers seek to observe this “monster” by contrast, that is, thanks to the bright background that forms the matter that surrounds it. “ By observing the environment, analyzing what happens around us, we can see what happens. From there, behavior is studied and it is deduced that there is something that is 'swallowing' everything ” , explained Baikouzis.
On the other hand, under the effect of the enormous gravitational attraction, the stars closest to these “monsters” are flattened, stretched and dislocated and their gas is heated to extreme temperatures.
The truth is that supermassive black holes are an enigma of astrophysics, especially because of the way in which they get so large, and their formation focuses much research. Scientists think that they devour, at unprecedented speed, all the gases emitted by the very dense galaxies that surround them. As they are invisible, they can only be observed by contrast, seeing what phenomena they generate around them. A first revolutionary image was revealed to the world in April 2019 .
How many types of black holes are there?
It is believed that in most galaxies there is a supermassive black hole at its center and hundreds of thousands of stellar black holes (Reuters)
They are distinguished by their size. Stellars are those with masses comparable to that of the Sun and radii of tens or hundreds of kilometers. Those whose masses are millions or even billions of times the mass of the Sun are supermassive black holes in the nuclei of galaxies .
If they are not so massive, the matter they are made of can stop them from collapsing and form a dying star that barely shines bright : a white dwarf or a neutron star.
It is believed that in most galaxies there is a supermassive black hole at their center and hundreds of thousands of stellar black holes. The closest known black hole to Earth is about 3,000 light-years away.
“The discoveries of this year's laureates have broken new ground in the study of compact and supermassive objects . But these exotic objects still raise many questions that beg for answers and motivate future research . Not only questions about its internal structure, but also questions about how to test our theory of gravity under extreme conditions in the immediate vicinity of a black hole, “said David Haviland, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics.
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