Login

Life Cycle of Black Holes

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Inner Planets of the Solar System: Mercury, Venus, Earth & Mars

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:09 Black Holes - Myth vs. Reality
  • 1:12 How a Black Hole Forms
  • 3:02 Little and Big Black Holes
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Meyers

Amy holds a Master of Science. She has taught science at the high school and college levels.

Learn about black holes, their myths and their reality. Learn how black holes form after stars undergo supernovae and create singularities. Discover how big black holes grow, how scientists find black holes and where black holes are located in the universe.

Black Holes - Myth vs. Reality

Black holes - they are what you think, and they aren't. There are a lot of general misconceptions about black holes. First of all, our sun will never become one - it just isn't big enough. Black holes aren't giant vacuum cleaners sucking matter out of space, we cannot detect black holes visually, and time travel is not possible by falling into them.

Scientists have theorized about the existence of black holes since way back in the 1700s. It wasn't until Einstein's work on general relativity in the early 1900s that scientists had support for the relationship between gravity and light. Further work was performed by other scientists, and it was 1967 when a physicist named John Wheeler first publicly used the words 'black hole.' Although these scientists couldn't see a black hole, they theorized its existence from the effect of the black hole's gravity on everything around it.

How a Black Hole Forms

A star collapses when it runs out of fuel, causing its density to become greater.
Star Collapse

Black holes form from stars of a specific size at the end of their life. A smaller star, like our sun, forms a white dwarf at the end of its life. A medium-size star ends its life as a neutron star. A huge star, many times bigger than our sun, becomes a black hole.

When a star runs out of fuel in its core, it collapses and its density becomes greater. When a star starts big enough, it will collapse, making its density very strong, nearly infinite. Density is defined as mass divided by volume; this means that the more massive something is but the less space it takes up, the more dense it is. Picture the sun collapsing and becoming so dense that the entire sun fits into an area the size of New York City.

The density in a black hole is so strong that not even light can escape it. In doing so, the star creates what is known as a singularity. A singularity is an infinitely dense point of zero volume. Have you ever seen them crush a car at the junkyard? They squish it down from a huge volume to just a little flat pancake. This is essentially what a singularity is, only even more so - a huge volume of matter that is squished into an itty-bitty, zero-volume point.

Surrounding the singularity is an event horizon. The event horizon can be thought of as the line of no escape in the black hole from which nothing that passes over it can ever leave. Matter that passes this point cannot overcome the pull of gravity from the black hole and falls into it. Think of it like the security checkpoint at the airport. Once you pass that point, you can't turn back.

Little and Big Black Holes

The largest black holes form when a neutron star collides with an existing black hole.
Neutron Star

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support