The Search for Black Holes: Both As A Concept And An Understanding


For ages people have been determined to explicate on everything. Our
search for explanation rests only when there is a lack of questions. Our skies
hold infinite quandaries, so the quest for answers will, as a result, also be
infinite. Since its inception, Astronomy as a science speculated heavily upon
discovery, and only came to concrete conclusions later with closer inspection.
Aspects of the skies which at one time seemed like reasonable explanations are
now laughed at as egotistical ventures. Time has shown that as better
instrumentation was developed, more accurate understanding was attained. Now it
seems, as we advance on scientific frontiers, the new quest of the heavens is to
find and explain the phenomenom known as a black hole.
The goal of this paper is to explain how the concept of a black hole
came about, and give some insight on how black holes are formed and might be
tracked down in our more technologically advanced future. Gaining an
understanding of a black hole allows for a greater understanding of the concept
of spacetime and maybe give us a grasp of both science fiction and science fact.
Hopefully, all the clarification will come by the close of this essay.
A black hole is probably one of the most misunderstood ideas among
people outside of the astronomical and physical communities. Before an
understanding of how it is formed can take place, a bit of an introduction to
stars is necessary. This will shed light (no pun intended) on the black hole
philosophy.
A star is an enormous fire ball, fueled by a nuclear reaction at its
core which produces massive amounts of heat and pressure. It is formed when two
or more enormous gaseous clouds come together which forms the core, and as an
aftereffect the conversion, due to that impact, of huge amounts of energy from
the two clouds. The clouds come together with a great enough force, that a
nuclear reaction ensues. This type of energy is created by fusion wherein the
atoms are forced together to form a new one. In turn, heat in excess of
millions of degrees farenheit are produced.
This activity goes on for eons until the point at which the nuclear fuel
is exhausted. Here is where things get interesting. For the entire life of the
star, the nuclear reaction at its core produced an enormous outward force.
Interestingly enough, an exactly equal force, namely gravity, was pushing inward
toward the center. The equilibrium of the two forces allowed the star to
maintain its shape and not break away nor collapse.
Eventually, the fuel for the star runs out, and it this point, the
outward force is overpowered by the gravitational force, and the object caves in
on itself. This is a gigantic implosion. Depending on the original and final
mass of the star, several things might occur. A usual result of such an
implosion is a star known as a white dwarf. This star has been pressed together
to form a much more massive object. It is said that a teaspoon of matter off a
white dwarf would weigh 2-4 tons. Upon the first discovery of a white dwarf, a
debate arose as to how far a star can collapse. And in the 1920’s two leading
astrophysicists, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekgar and Sir Arthur Eddington came up
with different conclusions. Chandrasekhar looked at the relations of mass to
radius of the star, and concluded an upper limit beyond which collapse would
result in something called a neutron star. This limit of 1.4 solar masses was
an accurate measurement and in 1983, the Nobel committee recognized his work and
awarded him their prize in Physics. The white dwarf is massive, but not as
massive as the next order of imploded star known as a neutron star. Often as
the nuclear fuel is burned out, the star will begin to shed its matter in an
explosion called a supernovae. When this occurs the star loses an enormous
amount of mass, but that which is left behind, if greater than 1.4 solar masses,
is a densely packed ball of neutrons. This star is so much more massive that a
teaspoon of it’s matter would weigh somewhere in the area of 5 million tons in
earth’s gravity. The magnitude of such a dense body is unimaginable. But even
a neutron star isn’t the extreme when it comes to a star’s collapse. That
brings us to the focus of this paper. It is felt, that when a star is massive
enough, any where in the