Black Holes and Revelations

February 10, 2009 at 6:52 am (randoms)

Let’s talk about falling into a black hole – something to be avoided at all costs. A black hole’s gravity is so strong, it can pull objects apart at the atomic level when they are just inside the event horizon. Hadrons in the nucleus will be torn apart into their constituent quarks. The process is called spaghettification – although no one predicts the creation of pasta shaped objects. Spaghettification is odd because how gravity interacts over distance is the defining parameter not the absolute strength of the gravitational field. Small black holes have the greatest capacity to tear objects apart while objects falling into massive black holes might remain largely intact.

Imagine we are close to a black hole, our space ship has stopped not far from the event horizon of a black hole and we are watching a planet with intelligent life and civilizations that has been captured by the immense gravity of a black hole. Before the planet crosses the event horizon, it experiences time dilation – the slowing down of time – relative to those of us beyond the gravitational field of the black hole and outside the event horizon . As we watch, all active processes on the planet seem to be slowing down as it approaches the event horizon. Gravitational time dilation will approach infinity for the falling planet as it travels closer and closer to the event horizon. When it is very close to the event horizon, we notice that the planet appears red because as objects approach the speed of light, their visible light spectrum shifts towards red wavelengths. The planet is also becoming very faint and difficult to see. At a point just before the event horizon, it ‘disappears’. Faint red light carries very little energybecause the frequency of light now completes fewer cycle per ‘tick’ of the clocks we watch as outside observers. However, from the viewpoint of those on the planet falling into the black hole, we appear blue because distant objects as viewed from this planet inside the event horizon appear blue-shifted.

To those of us watching outside the event horizon, it appears to take an infinite amount of time for the planet to cross the event horizon. To those on the planet, at first there is nothing unusual that can be seen or heard and objects outside the event horizon are still visible. When it is very close to the black hole singularity, everything on this captured planet is torn apart down to the atomic level where subatomic particles are ripped away from one another. Once inside the black hole – in the singularity – we have almost no ideas and no good theories for what happens.

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