Black Hole Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Jeremy Cook

I have been teaching elementary school for 16 years. I have extensive experience in lesson and curriculum development and educational technology.

Imagine a place where nothing can escape. A place so big and dark that not even light can find its way out. I'll bet that sounds like a horror story, but what we're talking about is a black hole. Learn more about black holes in this lesson.

What is a Black Hole?

A black hole is a massive circular area in space where the gravity surrounding the center is so strong that it pulls everything into it, even light. Think about what happens when you turn on a vacuum cleaner with a hose and hold it over some dirt on the floor. What happens? The dirt gets sucked up into the tube. Now imagine that the vacuum was strong enough to suck EVERYTHING up, even the light around you. That's very similar to what a black hole does.

Gravity from a black hole pulls in all matter around it
Black Hole

How Does a Black Hole Form?

Stars live a long time, but all stars eventually die. When a star loses too much energy, it can explode in an event called a supernova. Sometimes, these dying stars fold in on themselves, squishing down to a much smaller size, maybe only ten miles across. There are other black holes that formed at the beginning of time when the universe formed that are as tiny as an atom!

How can something so big squish down so small? If you've ever held a piece of foam, you know that you can squeeze it really hard and make it super small.

When the star gets super small, it still has a massive amount of mass, similar to how a squished ball of foam has the same mass. This mass has a lot of gravity and that is what becomes the black hole. All that gravity, squished into a tiny speck, becomes very strong. The gravity is so strong it begins to pull in everything around it.

Some black holes spin and others are stationary
Black Hole 2

What Does it Look Like?

Black holes don't have a surface, so you couldn't walk on it or land a spacecraft on one. We also can't see them either. Because they are so strong, they absorb light. Since all light is absorbed, it doesn't reflect back, so we can't actually see it. We know it's there by observing the material around the black hole.

Black holes have two main parts. The outer part of the black hole is called the event horizon. Think of it like the edge of the black hole's power. Once anything crosses over the event horizon, it will get sucked into the black hole and will not be able to escape.

The center of a black hole is called the singularity. This is where gravity's pull is almost impossibly strong. So strong that time and space as we know it don't exist in the singularity.

An artist rendering of a black hole known as Cygnus
Black Hole Cygnus

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