An artist's concept of a black hole.  The black hole's dark center is surrounded by a bright red vortex representing hot gas and dust.

Black holes revealed, from ‘catastrophic’ creation to the dark void within – CNET

Black holes are a staple of science fiction – whether it’s the time-twisted regions of space seen in the 2014 movie Interstellar to Star Trek’s all-consuming planetary destroyers. But while Hollywood gives us a version of these parts of the universe for the big screen (with plenty of artistic licensing), what’s the truth behind fiction?

The answer seems surprisingly simple and baffling.

“A black hole is just a region of space where gravity is so strong that light can’t escape,” said Regina Caputo, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “This presents a lot of challenges for astronomers because if the light can’t escape, we won’t be able to see it.”

An artist’s drawing of a black hole billions of times the mass of our Sun.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This gravity is the result of a huge amount of mass in a small area attracting everything in its path, from dust and gas to stars and even other black holes. For smaller black holes, that mass is generated when the star burns out all its fuel and collapses in on itself – what Kabuto called “catastrophic death.” But in the case of supermassive black holes, which can equal the mass of billions of stars, scientists still have unanswered questions.

These are the black holes in the centers of galaxies [and] “We don’t actually know how they get this big,” Caputo said. “We think it might be a merger of other black holes, so galaxies are merging together to make these huge objects with a billion solar masses.”

While scholars seized first pictures From black holesand even managed to remix pressure waves from a black hole into some kind Interstellar soundtrackThere is a lot that remains unknown about these mysterious spaces.

Watch the video above to see our deep dive into black holes with Caputo from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, covering everything from how black holes form to what lies at their centers and what they can teach us about the universe.

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