Just how low can a black hole go?

By Phil Plait | August 18, 2010 9:23 am

Sometimes there are news stories with so much awesomeness to them it’s hard to describe it all. This is one such item. It starts with a bruiser of a star cluster, and ends with astronomers scratching their heads over black holes. C’mon, I’ll show you how this works.

Awesome thing #1:

Our tale starts with Westerlund 1, a massive star cluster about 16,000 light years away. Here’s the cluster as seen by the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile:

vlt_westerlund1

What’s amazing about this stellar city is that it’s loaded with high-mass stars. Almost every star you see there is what astronomers call type O or B; beefy stars with 10 to as much as 40 times the mass of the Sun. Each of these is incredibly luminous, some shining thousands of times more brightly than the Sun — and some with millions, yes millions of times the energy output of the Sun. If we put the Earth next to one of these guys, we’d burn. Hard.

Stars like that don’t live very long — the more massive a star is, the shorter its life — so we know the cluster is young, and studies have shown that it’s about 5 million years old. Not only that, but it appears that all the stars were born at the same time. Sometimes there are waves of star formation in a cluster, but this one formed all at once, in what must have been a spectacular vision of gas, shock waves, and radiation. This all-at-onceness is critical, so keep it in mind!

Awesome thing #2:


In the image, two stars are marked. At the lower left is a circle marking the location of a magnetar, the actual star (haha!) of our story. Magnetars are a special class of neutron stars, über-dense nuggets of material with the mass of the entire Sun squeezed into a ball just a few kilometers across. They are the remnants of supernovae, the leftover core that remains after the outer parts of a high-mass star explode. You can’t see the magnetar in the image because it’s very faint in visible light; it’s too small to be able to emit enough light for us to see. I’ll note, though, that it’s pouring out X-rays, which is how it was discovered. In fact, it’s emitting as much energy in just X-rays as the Sun does across the entire electromagnetic spectrum!

Magnetars are a little bit scary.

sgr1806_magfieldartNow follow along here: if a star has enough mass, when it explodes it leaves behind a black hole. The core has so much gravity that when it collapse, it collapses all the way. But if the star is less massive, the core doesn’t have the oomph it needs to form a black hole, and instead forms a neutron star. They’re superdense, but not quite black holes. We think the dividing line between stars massive enough to make black holes and those that make neutron stars rests around 20 or so times the mass of the Sun. Below that, neutron star. Above it, black hole.

Right?

Well, maybe not. Come along, there’s more to see.

Awesome thing #3:

We can’t measure the mass of the magnetar directly. It sure would be nice to do that, since we could learn tons about it if we could know exactly how big and massive it is. But, it turns out, there’s a way to figure out how massive its long-ago exploded parent star was.

Another star is indicated in the picture above. It’s called W13, and it’s a binary, two stars orbiting each other (they’re so close together they appear as one star in the image). That’s very important! Hundreds of years ago, astronomer Johannes Kepler figured out that if you can observe two objects orbiting each other — a planet around a star, a moon around a planet, or even two stars circling — you can calculate their masses. It’s a standard technique we’ve been using for a long time.

So some astronomers did just that, and found that the two stars comprising W13 have masses of about 35 and 23 times that of the Sun — big stars, to be sure! And these kinds of stars usually start off their life even more massive: they lose mass over time by blowing a thick super-solar wind. So the bigger of the two probably was born with a mass of 40 times that of the Sun.

Got it? We have directly measured the mass of a star in the cluster Westerlund 1, and it has 40 times the mass of the Sun. That takes us to…

Awesome thing #4:

sgr1806_artLet’s put the pieces together. We have a young cluster of massive stars, and we’re pretty sure they were born all at once. The more massive a star, the shorter its lifespan. We also know that there exists in the cluster a star with about 35 times the mass of the Sun, and it started with about 40. We can therefore be pretty sure that any star more massive than that would’ve exploded by now, and also that any star that already has exploded would have started off more massive than that, too.

But we also see a magnetar in the cluster. That means the star that formed it must have had a mass of at least 40 times the mass of the Sun or so!

But wait! I said earlier the most massive star that can form a neutron star is about 20 times the mass of the Sun.

Uh oh. That’s trouble. And that’s why this is awesome. All the evidence points to the fact that we’re really not quite so sure how massive a star can be to form a neutron star. And that means we’re also not so sure how massive a star has to be to form a black hole. When I give talks about this, I usually say a star more massive than about 20 times the mass of the Sun forms a black hole. What this star is telling us is that it’s not quite so simple.

I love it when that happens! The Universe is more complicated and more interesting than we first thought. That’s always cool.

So what’s going on here then? There are lots of steps in this detective puzzle, and there could be several places we’ve gone awry. For one thing, maybe the stars in the cluster weren’t all born at exactly the same time, throwing off our timescale. Maybe there is some property of the gas in the cluster from which the stars formed which throws off our clocks. Maybe the masses of the two components of the binary star are off. We think progenitor stars of magnetars have to be binaries themselves, and maybe something there affects the outcome. Maybe maybe maybe. But I read the journal research paper, and the scientists involved take into account a lot of potential problems, and still conclude the star that formed the magnetar was a whopper, far larger than we thought could do the trick.

And while this is only a single example, and therefore difficult and dangerous to extrapolate from, it does provide an example of a star that should have formed a black hole, but didn’t. Why not? Was it spinning more rapidly than usual (magnetars have extremely rapid rotations)? Was the magnetic field of the star critical (a magnetar’s most important feature is an incredibly strong magnetic field, a quadrillion — 1,000,000,000,000,000 — times that of the Earth)? Or is there something else we’ve missed?

This calls into question what we know about how black holes form, too. A star with a mass like that forming a neutron star instead of a black hole changes how we think about them. It may mean black holes are harder to form, and there may be fewer of them than we thought.

This is how science works, folks. We make observations, draw conclusions, then test them. Sometimes our ideas hold up, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the problems are easy to fix — tweak the idea here or there, or add a new bit to it — and sometimes not so much. But we draw on previous conclusions to make progress, and in this case a series of observations and analyses, each relying on older ideas, has led us to a conclusion that something we thought we understood is more complicated than we supposed.

And this is how the Universe works, folks. It’s amazing, astonishing, beautiful, and frightening… but it’s rarely simple.

Credits: ESO, NASA.


Related posts:

- OK, so maybe we can be a *little* frightened
- Anniversary of a cosmic blast
- Gamma rays from monster stars
- Astro round up


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (57)

  1. AliCali

    “A star with a mass that low forming a neutron star instead of a black hole changes how we think about them.”

    Do you mean a star with a mass that *high* forming an neutron star…?

  2. I love SCIENCE!!!! I’m reading this and I say to myself “5 million years, that’s NOTHING!” Because it IS when you are talking about the Universe. it is COOOOL!

    I’m reminded of a story my daughter told about taking an astronomy course at MIT (“just for fun” on top of her required classes). She said all the students were there for the first night of class (they met at night, it was a really basic skywatching type class) and there was one student who was from China. The teacher explained the class and asked if there were any questions. The Chinese student (he’d only been in the US for 3 months) said “Yes, what kind of telescope should I buy? Where can I buy it?” He would show up before class started and stay as long after as the teacher would let him. But the most important thing is HIS enthusiasm made all the other students entusiastic. All the students ended up wanting telescopes.

    Phil is a lot like that student but on a much BIGGER scale.

    I just sent this article to my husband and daughters… because I want them to go “COOOOL!” also.

  3. M.K. Oestby

    So you find something that somehow discredits what you believe to be true, in this case the mass needed to form a black hole…

    And the first thing you do is to make a blog post about it for all the world to see, enjoying the fact that the universe can actually surprise you, and sharing that joy with the rest of us.

    That is awesome. You set a great example here, great post…

  4. Christian Ott

    Phil,

    a couple corrections:

    - Stars in the range of, say, 10 – 150 solar masses, cannot collapse directly to a black hole. Even those that end up making a hole first make a proto-neutron star that is then pushed over its mass limit (somewhere between 2 and 3 solar masses) by accretion. This has to do with the fact that they all end up with an electron-degenerate iron core just before collapse. Collapse then proceeds in such a way that initially, only ~0.5 solar masses of material (the ‘inner core’) ends up at high density/compactness. All the other mass accretes onto this inner core.

    - Stars with masses > ~40 solar masses experience intense mass loss. If you like, look at Heger et al. 2003 (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2003ApJ…591..288H). It turns out that (at least at solar metallicity) it is actually not too difficult to make neutron stars for massive stars above ~40-50 solar masses.

    – Christian

  5. Paul Crowther

    Phil

    Its certainly true that textbooks argue that 20+ solar mass stars lead to black holes, and 8-20 solar mass stars lead to neutron stars. However, more recent theoretical work (Heger et al. 2003) argue that black holes from single stars only form in the present day Milky Way from stars initally in the range 25-40 x the solar mass – Fig 1 in Heger et al. Other model-dependent results have come to the conclusions that 40+ solar mass stars in Wd1 and another more distant star cluster 1806-20 host magnetars.

    The new Wd1 result confirms these earlier studies but as you note it is more robust since it is pretty model independent, arising primarily from dynamical mass measurements.

    Oh, FWIW in contrast to the Milky Way, all single stars in metal-poor galaxies above 25 solar masses or so are still thought to produce black holes. As usual there are exceptions – the “white” region to the lower right of Figure 1 – for which pair instability supernovae (PISN) are not predicted to leave any remnant. We’ve recently identified stars locally in the right mass regime (R136a1 with the highest mass known), but probably with a metal content too close to that of the Milky Way to produce PISN themselves.

    As i tell my final year undergraduate students – don’t believe everything you read in astronomy textbooks.. as soon as they’re written, many details quickly become out of date..

    Paul

  6. Pat

    Neat! Maybe it means there’s one more form of degenerate matter between neutron stars and black holes, just strong enough to avoid the critical radius…

    In other news, caught this on raw Cassini images – looks for all the world like a close-up of a tiger stripe caught venting:

    http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/raw/casJPGFullS62/N00161059.jpg

  7. CW

    *head explodes*

    Very cool! I’ll be using this example the next time I hear a scientific illiterate person make the argument that scientists never consider evidence that goes against the paradigm.

  8. Dawn

    This is so cool! I love it when you tell cool star stories. Might have to go back to read Death from the Skies again.

    And this is how science works. Science is open to change based on new evidence. As long as we stay curious about things, what we know about the universe will change as we learn new things.

    OT COMMENT
    (Hooray for ebooks…just bought and downloaded DFTS so I can have it at work and leave the hardcover at home. I LOVE authors who make books available as ebooks! Thanks, Phil!)

  9. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    Phil Plait:

    Was the magnetic field of the star critical (a magnetar’s most important feature is an incredibly strong magnetic field, a quadrillion — 1,000,000,000,000,000 — times that of the Earth)? Or is there something else we’ve missed?

    BIRKELAND CURRENTS!!!1!!1!! :P

  10. Yeah, I’ll bet the simultaneity of formation is the weak link. That sounds too pat, too simple.
    But, all told, waaaaaay cool!

    I can imagine a science fiction storyline of a chase between starships where the lead starship changes direction at warpspeed and the chasing starship comes out of warp next to a magnetar and is shredded atom-from-atom by the magnetic force.
    Whattaya say, Hollywood? Make it so!

  11. Mr. D

    I read this on the arXiv, but I have some trouble seeing the exact relevance of all this media attention, relative to many other discoveries. As far as I know, mid-weight Wolf-Rayet stars were already expected to form neutron stars due to heavy mass loss (see Woosley, S. and Heger, A., 2002, Rev. Mod. Phys., vol.72, p.1015 figure 16) at any metallicity significantly higher than 0…

    Then again, we don’t know exactly what kind of progenitors give us magnetars… This might be due to some effect of common envelope evolution or wind accretion onto a primary that disrupted the system due to a large supernova kick to the magnetar.

    The problem being that, with no confirmed progenitor for a magnetar, this is a “who knows” situation.

    And one nitpick: “magnetars have extremely rapid rotations” is a wierd statement, given that magnetars are the slowest rotators of all known neutron stars…

  12. The importance of this is that the lower mass limit of the main sequence turnoff of the cluster has been directly measured by getting the binary masses. This caps the upper mass of the magnetar’s progenitor star.

    The mass limit for the cluster had been estimated using models, but this is the first direct measurement.

  13. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    Seriously, Phil, what about the possibility that an over-dense neutron star may be a quark star?

  14. Nicely done. A complicated starscape clearly explained.

    I couldn’t help but think, when you said that it’s cool when something comes along that shows us the universe doesn’t work the way we thought it did, then we have to shift gears and figure it out. Sounds like what started happening to me when I passed 40!

    Fortunately life is also more interesting now as well as more complicated–just like the universe.

  15. costas

    And why are Magnetars scary?

  16. [Slack Jawed Yokel] Well, how can we trust science if they keep changing their minds about things they told us? That why you need to have the innerant word of Dog! [/Slack Jawed Yokel]
    :D Sorry, I’ve been running into that argument a lot lately. The fact that the person making that argument is typing it on a computer doesn’t seem to faze them in the slightest…

    That is some very cool observing though. And I’m sure there are a lot more than 4 awesome things in that little patch of sky.

  17. TerryS.

    Phil, Phil, Phil…

    “…since we could learn tons about it if we could know exactly how big and massive it is.”

    Was that an accidental pun we see here? Or do they just flow out without your knowledge these days.

    Wow!

  18. Emery Emery

    I love how accessible, Phil can make these incredibly complex stories. Thank you Phil!

    I do have one idea that I think may factor into why a black hole was not formed where we should expect to one.

    It seems to me that a region of space with that many suns clustered together should be incredibly more heated than other areas of space. Could it be that a black hole is formed more readily when the space it’s in is cooler and the warmer it is, the more mass that’s required to convert a collapsed star into a black hole?

    See how accessible Phil makes science? He makes a film maker believe he could solve a complex problem like this!

    Ahh, the yang of Phil’s great talent for bridging high concept with laypeople reares it’s ugly head.

  19. Durand

    Really nicely written, thanks!

  20. SkepGeek

    Could something about the huge magnetic field mean that it had a larger than normal solar wind and blasted away way more material than normal before collapsing?

  21. Eddie Janssen

    A little bit off topic, but this is something I have always had trouble with: which stars in the picture are part of Westerlund 1 and which stars are just in the line of sight?

  22. I’ve always had the question of what stands between a Neutron Star and a Black Hole. Now I’ve read about Quark Stars and Strange Stars but even then, is there still more grey area? Is there an equilibrium that once you pass there is no turning back?

    Is it possible that a Neutron star can pick up more mass and actually turn into a black hole? Say, if a massive bloaty star is nearby shedding off lots of gas, etc.

    And how about going backwards? Can a black hole lose enough mass to revert back into a less massive state? Somehow I don’t think so but it still sounds cool in a sci-fi sort of way! :)

    As hot as stars are, they sure are cooool. 8)

  23. Kullat Nunu

    I remember seeing a news piece some time ago about a theoretical result according to which magnetars should form from very massive stars (too lazy to find it or the original article…) Seems they were correct.

  24. Nigel Depledge

    Ooooh! Shiny!

    Plus, a very nicely recounted tale of a scientific conundrum.

  25. How much gravitational radiation would the magnetar-precursor system have emitted before it went pop? Is there an expanding shell around the magnetar or is it too dispersed by now?

  26. el jefe

    Try as I might, I cannot hear/read the word “magnetar” without getting “Heart Shaped Box” stuck in my head.

    Thanks a lot Phil.

    Jeff

  27. Armchair guess: maybe it blew off more mass than most stars that size and managed to fall below the TOV limit? Maybe the fact that it’s spinning helped throw off more mass that usual supernova models estimate.

  28. Rory Kent

    Totally awesome stuff.

    One minor criticism: “The core has so much gravity that when it collapse, it collapses all the way.” Shouldn’t that be gravitational pull? Gravity is the name of the force, and we don’t go around talking about how much Electromagnetism an electron has…

  29. Celly

    So cool! Thanks for the step-by-step explanation.

  30. Jess Tauber

    How ’bout a stellar remnant where there are distortions from the Standard Model? That is, either reduced symmetry breaking (so the units making up the composition are like those that existed just after the Big Bang), or increased, so that there is a reconfiguration that yields new particles (so hypothetically where electromagnetism is broken, as an example).

    Frankly its much more likely that it is made up of the compacted corpses of alien climate and evolution denialists who have got their final comeuppances. More room for humans of the same stripe! Come on down!

  31. Messier Tidy Upper

    I love this post – great work here BA! :-)

    I’ll second (#9.) Dawn’s comment on that. :-)

    My guesses would be that :

    1) Perhaps the Magnetar isn’t part of the Westerlund 1 star cluster – but instead just co-incidentally there in line of sight or background. How certain are we that it *is* actually a cluster member and we’re not being fooled by “line of sight” here?

    That’s the least dramatic, most ordinary explanation for this mystery – thus Occam’s razor suggests its perhaps the most probable one, right?

    2) This star was hypermassive and went through a stage where it ejected huge quantities of mass in Eta Carinae (http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/etacar.html) style “false supernova” outbursts causing its mass to drop below the Black hole forming level before it detonated as a (lower-end mass) type Ic (?) Wolf-Rayet star variety supernova?

    Is there any spectral evidence for this or of the orgnal supernova? Would it be too late to find such clues?

    Or finally :

    3) Perhaps the stars rapid rotation made the supernova different and warped the stellar core out of shape somehow? Perhaps instead of the core holding together under the eruption it was split apart so all the mass wasn’t concentrated into the singularity-forming point. perhjaps it wouldv’e formed ablack hole but the precursor stars core was too badly shattered by the eruption and only some of that core remained intact with “only” enough mass for a magnetar?

    What do y’all think?

  32. Messier Tidy Upper

    This article reminds me of this stellar puzzle with a peculiar white-dwarf-less planetary nebula :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/06/05/one-ring-to-fool-them-all/

    Did they ever find a solution for that one BA? Is there any more news?

    What did you think of my suggested solution :

    Now here’s my thought B type stars tend to be extremely rapidly rotating stars that spin so fast many of them (incl. Altair, Achernar and Regulus) are flattened with their poles squashed down and their equators bulging out. Suppose one such star starts to evolve – & as it does it ejects a whole lot of material forming a nebula as it goes through a long period as a Be shell star. (NB. e = emission, shell star = a whole lot of material thrown off forming a shell around the star examples incl. Pleione in the Plieades, Al Hekka or Zeta Tauri & Gamma Cassiopeiae.)

    So we’ve got a shell of material spreading out from a super-hot, super-fast-spinning Be type star. Now this star runs low on hydrogen and starts to evolve. It cools, swells up – and can’t take the strain of its rotation rate – BANG! It splits in twain leaving two roughly equal halves that form a new binary of A type sub-giants – each the same age, the whole system surrounded by a shell of ejected matter resembling a planetary nebula & so we get planetary nebula SuWt2?

    Is this a workable bit of scientific speculation? Maybe? Anyone?

    Source : http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/06/05/one-ring-to-fool-them-all/#comment-93885

    Comment 52 there back when I was posting as StevoR / Steven Raine (which I’m obviously NOT doing anymore.) & later expanded on in comment 56 there – in a nutshell the two stars used to be one star that split in half. Possible?

  33. i just found the same news on the repubblica.it website.
    “la repubblica” is one of italy’s main newspaper and usually they deal with the usual newspaper stuff: politics, sex scandals and, for the online version, boobs.

    it was really weird to see the same picture on your blog and on their site! ;)

    M

  34. Richard
  35. Tim

    Great article. Many thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  36. Michael Cornelissen

    Hi,

    Just a thought about it, as mentioned, timing might be off but I miss the eveluation of a scenario that a star with mass below 20 sun masses might have existed in or near the initial gas cloud which formed the star cluster. In that case, the death of that star could have resulted in both the magnastar and the birthwave for the star cluster due to shockwave compression, thus coupling the timing off between both events. If this is not a likely scenario, I’m interested in the reason why.

    BR,
    Michael

  37. Yeebok

    Nice post Phil. I love the way you get passionate about things that you explain, and how it comes across in the writing. Yay !

  38. Christian Treczoks

    Just out of curiosity: If this magnetar “can not be” as it is, how are the chances that the mass estimations of the twin star system is sufficiently off?

    And: as the whole construction is based on the assumption that the magnetar was in this very part of the universe when it bekame a magnetar – has anyone considered that the magnetar might have formed somewhere else (sufficiently far away not to be part of the star-forming blast) and might have been propelled to its current place? With a bit of an asymmetry at its formation supernova it might have gotten quite some speed. Are there any measurements in red shift or angular movement?

  39. Rick W.

    Great post Phil. It shows, conclusively, that we really don’t “know” any of this. We’ve observed certain things over a short period of time and theorize based on our obervations. Then, we add more theories on top of previous theories. The most accurate statements we can make about the universe is “We believe …”. We can’t rreally say “We know that …”. In some ways we are a lot like children where the universe is concerned. We do not know just what we do not know.

  40. rob

    this is a way cool post. it is always kinda fun to find out we don’t know as much as we think we do. makes science fun.

    however, now i am compelled to go update the conservopedia refutations of relativity list. while i’m at it i also have a good explanation how sheeps’ bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.

  41. Do we have a good estimate on the age of the magnetar? Is it possible that the stellar collapse which formed the magnetar is responsible for the sudden emergence of all the fresh new stars in the cluster at roughly the same time?

  42. Luc

    Excellent article!

    Question: When you say that they were born at the “same time”, how much “same time” are we talking about here? Really same time, or a really huge number of times between their individual birth but that is considered “same time” at the Universe scale?

  43. Caleb Jones

    Great article. However, I have a slightly different take on the whole simplicity/complicated nature of the universe.

    In my experience, the universe is ostensibly complicated. But once you understand the laws that govern it, there is a wonderful and poetic simplicity and beauty to it.

    But as you noted, once you think you understand the universe, it continually presents you with data that contradicts your understanding muddying up your understanding of its laws. You then have to expand your knowledge to where you account for the data and in the process discover more laws. And this repeats over and over swinging back and forth between simplicity that comes from understanding and complexity that comes from exploring further and further.

  44. Paul Crowther

    Eddie Janssen (Re: comment 22):

    Wd1 lies thousands of light years along the galactic plane, which contains lots of interstellar dust (soot) so the cluster members appears much redder than they really are, so in the ESO image the foreground stars appear blue, the (intrinsically) blue stars in the cluster appear yellow and the (intrinsically) yellow/red stars in the cluster appear red.

    Paul

  45. Paul Crowther

    Messier Tidy Upper (Re: comment 34)

    Muno et al. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2006ApJ…636L..41M have looked into the possibility that the magnetar is merely a chance supperposition towards Wd1 and argued that it is a genuine cluster member with >99.97% confidence. Another Milky Way cluster 1806-20 with a very similar stellar content to Wd1 also hosts a magnetar (SGR 1806-20) and has a similar progenitor mass http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2008MNRAS.386L..23B

    Paul

  46. Paul Crowther

    Archvillain (Re: comment 44)

    The magnetar is definitely young – of order thousands of years since explosion on the basis of its spin-down rate – whereas the stars in the cluster are a few million years old.

    Paul

  47. Michael Black

    Perhaps the threshold for creating a black hole over a neutron star is dependent both on mass and the implosive speed. Much like an atomic bomb…if you don’t compress it enough you don’t get the big bang.

  48. Excellent post. Thanks.

    “the more massive a star is, the shorter its life” — Well, that explains Mel Gibson’s career.

  49. Armchair Everything

    Would it be possible for the magnetar to have acquired the additional mass from an external source later on in its life? What effect would the addition of significant mass have on some of these exotic neutron stars?

  50. Marc A. Pelletier

    @Lewis:

    Keep in mind I’m speaking as an informed layman and not an astrophysicist…

    I think the answer to both your questions is “yes”.

    Neutron stars can accumulate matter enough that they’ll eventually pass the Chandrasekhar limit and become a black hole; and I’d expect that’s not even very infrequent if it was part of a binary system (the other star would eventually contribute all of its mass to the neutron star as its orbit degrades). I expect that’d be a very energetic event, with what’s left of surrounding matter growing immensely heated as it speeds towards its new doom.

    All black holes also evaporate gradually to mass lost to quantum tunneling (as half of particle-antiparticle pairs escape when they were made “just right”)… but my understanding is that this is a very slow process; and is slower the more massive the black hole is; so that the black hole is going to gain more mass from accretion than it looses to Hawking radiation until there is nothing left to accrete — far into the heat death of the universe — and even then it’ll be a slow, slow process (think 1050 or 10100 years even). What’d then happen is that as the black hole no longer has the density to be a black hole more and more of its mass would escape the “normal” way (even if only blackbody radiation is left) and it’d go gradually bright again for a while until it joined the rest of the cold, dark dead universe.

    Educated guesses, but it’s probably something along those lines.

  51. James

    My theory is that blackholes already travel at twice the speed of light which is why they are black, why scientists know time stops at light speed at the event horizon or ‘point of no return for light’, since this is at light speed.. dah, and would be twice the frequency or harmonic level of neutron star formation which means that the giantstar that went supernova would have at least ‘twice’ as much mass to release that much more energy for forming a black hole since E=mc(2).
    In this case there probably are black holes, that are unable to be observed, with wormholes that come out at white holes or quasars (protogalaxy cores) at the edge of our folded Universe billions of light years away. Meaning our galaxy might be viewed as forming given the multiplistic nature or duality principle at the quantum Planck Scale level of the Universe.

  52. Messier Tidy Upper

    @49. Paul Crowther : Thanks. :-)

  53. James,
    Do you mean to say that quasars emit more energy from the calculated energy released from the accretion disk and hawkin’s radiation combined? That the white hole gets the ejected mass from some other black hole? That the blackhole of the quasar is not losing mass as predicted?

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