Black holes are mysterious objects that have long tickled the interest of astronomers and physicists alike. They’re often described as ultra-dense objects in outer space with gravitational influences so great that not even light can escape their grasp. But what else do we know about black holes?
If you remember anything from your grade school science textbook, then you might recall that black holes can form after the death of a star; these are often referred to as stellar black holes. Supermassive black holes are another type, and as the name implies, these are much larger versions of the latter.
While scientists are fairly certain where stellar black holes come from, the same can’t be said about the supermassive variety. Their origins are rather mysterious, but we do know that they reside at the center of most galaxies, including our very own Milky Way. We also know that they can be millions of times larger than stellar black holes.
Black holes are as mysterious as they are because we can’t observe them directly. They’re invisible to the naked eye, and many times, we only know a black hole exists because of how they interact with the matter around them. Their accretion discs, for example, glow brightly when the comprising matter heats up amid extreme gravitational compression.
Given the circumstances, there’s virtually no way to accurately gauge the number of black holes in the universe today. Additionally, we can’t get close enough to a black hole to study it because the nearest known black hole is around 3,000 light-years away.
No wonder they’re so mysterious…